ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Mike Parson is already the governor of Missouri, but if he wins in November it will be the first time he'll be elected to the position.
Parson was thrust into the state's top job after the resignation of Eric Greitens in 2018. The former lieutenant governor, state lawmaker, and sheriff told News 4 he never anticipated the position he's in today. Now he's hoping voters will keep him in the job.
“I love this state. I love the people of this state. I've been really blessed in my career to live the American dream,” he said. “From where I started with a little farm, very humble beginnings. To be the governor of the State of Missouri, I’m humbled about that everyday.”
The governor's recent focus has been on violence plaguing Missouri cities, including St. Louis.
He wants lawmakers to lift the residency requirement for St. Louis officers, and to provide funding for witness protection. He said he also favors long-term solutions that go beyond hiring more officers.
“We're not doing a good enough job making sure these kids get early childhood development. They aren't getting an education. Not getting an opportunity to have a job before they get swept up in the crime side of it. We got to do a better job of that,” Parson said.
When asked what his top priority would be if he was re-elected, he said the problems plaguing the state currently all require attention.
“I don't know if there is a number one priority right now. You are fighting a virus since March, trying to get the economy going up and going. Civil unrest, schools, you have to deal with all of it. No one gets priority,” he said.
As many states implement mask mandates to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Parson still remained opposed to the idea, even as cases in Missouri continue to surge.
“I’ve always been clear on that. I'm not anti-mask. I encouraged everybody to wear a mask for months. What I am is anti-mandate,” he said. “I don't think it's the governor's role to mandate a mask.”
One thing Parson is clear about is his hopes for Missouri school kids this fall.
“I think right now the best thing to do is for schools to open up and kids get back to school,” he said.
He added it must be done with precautions in place to protect children and teachers. If voters keep him in office, parson says he won't ask them to do it again.
“I don’t need the money. I’m not going to Congress. I don’t care about more political careers. All I want to do is the best I can everyday for the people of the state,” he said. “This is the last one. You can put that down. That's it.”
Three other Republicans are running against Parson in the primary, which takes place on August 4th. But as the sitting governor, he is the presumptive nominee and will likely face Democratic challenger Nicole Galloway in November.