The field of candidates for the GOP nomination for governor in 2016 has gained another member. Bolivar senator Mike Parson has formally announced his campaign for governor, after telling the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association’s Board of Directors earlier this month that he had decided to run.
Parson was elected to the Senate in 2010 and is the chairman of its committee on Small Business, Insurance & Industry. He is a past sheriff of Polk County, spent six years in the U.S. Army and was elected to the state House in 2004.
The first hints of Parson’s interest in a run for governor began to appear after the suicide February 26 of Auditor Tom Schweich, who had just launched his own campaign for governor. Friends and family said Schweich was upset about a whisper campaign he believed was being conducted against him by the state GOP chairman John Hancock, and about a campaign ad that compared his physical appearance to that of TV character Barney Fife.
In the days after Schweich’s suicide, Parson took to the Senate floor to say that if negative campaign tactics played a role in Schweich’s death, the people behind them should be ashamed. He says his own campaign will be, “like no other.”
“I want to change the arena. It shouldn’t be about winning an election at all cost. It shouldn’t be all about the money … you should do things with an honorable intention of how you win an election, and if you win or lose, so be it,” said Parson. “I think at the end of the day we’re going to set a new example.”
Parson acknowledges he faces a challenge to reach the governor’s office. He becomes the third candidate in the GOP race along with former House Speaker and U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway and former state representative Randy Asbury. 2012 U.S. Senate hopeful and businessman John Brunner has formed a committee to explore the possibility of running, and several others are said to be potential candidates. The winner of the primary seems likely to face Democrat Chris Koster, who so far has the backing of several other key Missouri Democrats.
“I think the one advantage that I have over most candidates coming from rural Missouri … I’ve always been able to do well in the agriculture arena but I’ve always been a huge supporter of the urban issues as well,” Parson told Missourinet. “I think that hopefully by having that balance, that I can make the state even better.”
Parson owns a cow-calf operation near Bolivar. He and his wife Teresa have two children and five grandchildren.