Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.


Hawley, Galloway are best for Missouri

Democrat Nicole Galloway has earned voters' trust for a full term as state auditor

Democrat Nicole Galloway is the best candidate for Missouri state auditor. She is competent, experienced and professional. Originally appointed to the position by Gov. Jay Nixon upon the death of Tom Schweich, she has developed a track record of appropriately investigating entities associated with both Republicans and Democrats. Her background as Treasurer of Boone County and as a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner has served her well as state auditor, and she is hands down more qualified for the position than her challengers, including Republican Saundra McDowell.

Under her leadership, the auditor's office has continued innovations begun under Schweich and enhanced them. Among new practices, employing "big data" to seek anomalies in state programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to surface where further review is prudent. According to her office, Galloway has also helped pass more than a half dozen pieces of legislation germane to the auditor's office through the Republican legislature, which bolsters her bipartisan bonafides.

Galloway was sued earlier this year by an organization with dark money ties to former Gov. Eric Greitens, which charged her and her office with violating Missouri's Sunshine Law. She responded by turning over tens of thousands of documents, including her own mobile phone records -- at no cost. Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley was called to investigate the matter, and he did, fully clearing Galloway of any wrongdoing.

My main criticism of Galloway is that she sometimes chooses the sensational in her methods. Part of that is simply the nature of the beast, unfortunately. State officeholders often need attention to advance their responsibilities, and Galloway has been savvy in promoting herself through headline-grabbing audits of school cyber security and sexual offenders lists. In both cases, though, reports from local officials are that Galloway may have been disproportionately focused on the headlines. Is this tension the result of a normal turf battle? Perhaps, but in the case of the sexual offenders lists, sheriffs throughout the state made compelling cases that the message released by the auditor's office was inaccurate. Their point: A rush to judgment by Galloway's office misinformed -- and falsely scared -- the public.

In an interview with the Southeast Missourian editorial board, Galloway said it would have been helpful if the Missouri Sheriffs' Association had worked with her office when invited, rather than criticizing the report after the fact, and that in the big picture the cause of cleaning up the sexual offenders list was advanced. Still, my read of the press release and her public pronouncements did not match up with the actual review. It would have been reaffirming to hear Galloway acknowledge communication with sheriffs could have been handled better. During a political campaign, though, that was probably too much to expect. To her credit, she did say it makes sense to follow up on the issue -- given new information provided by sheriffs -- in the new year.

Galloway likes to say that her role is to hold government accountable at every level. That should also include the headline writing of her own communications team. That said, she is far-and-away the best candidate for state auditor. She has earned the trust of Missourians for a full term in the position.

Republican Josh Hawley would serve the state more honestly than Claire McCaskill

In the race for U.S. Senate, Josh Hawley is a much better fit for Missouri. The state's attorney general, Hawley is intelligent, principled, disciplined and in sync with the most important policy issues facing the nation. His opponent Sen. Claire McCaskill, the incumbent, is a savvy politician: whip smart, articulate and exemplary with constituent services. But too often she is forced to hide her convictions or send conflicting messages according to political expediency. In contrast to moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, for example, who deliberates difficult issues publicly -- and votes against her party leaders at critical times -- McCaskill is more calculating and deceptive: a liberal in moderate clothing only.

Hawley has not been long in public service, though his resume is packed with honorable achievements: from clerking for the United States Supreme Court to teaching constitutional law at the University of Missouri and writing a book on Theodore Roosevelt. But faced with an early test, he confronted the ethical disgrace of fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens forthrightly, not only calling for the governor to resign but calling Greitens' offenses "impeachable." Meanwhile, he did not play politics with charges against the only statewide officeholder of the other party when she was attacked. A political partisan would have let state Auditor Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, twist in the wind or worse. He did not.

In both cases, regarding the political viability of an officeholder of opposite parties, he acted fairly, wisely, transparently and with real leadership. Which brings me back to Sen. Claire McCaskill.

As recently evidenced by a lengthy piece in the New York Times about abortion, McCaskill is in a "tricky spot. To win, she must woo what is left of the conservative Democrats, as well as independents and some moderate Republicans." But when it comes down to her actual positions, the New York Times reports, she has a near perfect Democratic voting record on abortion. To camouflage her position, a companion podcast by the New York Times on the same topic revealed some of the tactics McCaskill uses to appear moderate.

At the same time as the NYT pieces, a conservative media group released surreptitious video footage of McCaskill staff saying the campaign has to "essentially" lie to Missourians in order to get elected.

All in all, last week was a bad week for McCaskill, notwithstanding that she announced raising $8.5 million for her campaign July through September (and $27.3 million total), dwarfing her opponent's $2.8 million raised in the same period (and $7.4 million total). According to the Washington Times, Senate Majority PAC, a group run by allies of Senate Leader Charles Schumer, was also reported to have spent the most of all outside groups in the race (more than $11.7 million), supporting McCaskill. Schumer is not particularly popular in the state. And last week's stories came on the heels of McCaskill telling supporters the previous week: "If we do our job in St. Louis County, you know, I can give up a few votes in the Bootheel." It was an uncharacteristic political gaff on her part discounting rural voters.

At the beginning of this column, I brought up Susan Collins for a reason, because Collins provides a noteworthy contrast to McCaskill. Both like to describe themselves as moderates. But if we look at the issue of Supreme Court justices as just one example, Collins has voted for nominees of both parties. McCaskill's reasons always change, but her vote does not: She votes for the Supreme Court nominees of only a Democrat president and against Republicans: four times only on one side. And when a moderating voice would be valuable to help calm the country's passions, Collins regularly plays the role with integrity; McCaskill does not. She is, as the New York Times reports, tactically "silent."

Is McCaskill smart? Absolutely. Honest? You decide. No question, she is in a tricky spot. Either way, Josh Hawley is not only qualified, he is a much better fit for Missouri.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian.