Can State Auditor Nicole Galloway become Missouri's next governor?

February 8, 2020

Nearly every day, Nicole Galloway eats a bowl of Kashi cereal for breakfast and a can of chicken fajita soup for lunch. Her favorite band is The Beatles. A Fenton native, she played soccer in college; now she and her husband are raising three boys near Mizzou’s campus. She is a certified public accountant. She’s also an extrovert with an air horn–grade laugh that, as a former colleague puts it, “can fill up a room from two rooms away.” Many who know her describe her with the same adjective: “normal.” She’s just a normal person, they say, almost apologetically, as if unable to explain a normal person’s entry into politics.

Galloway is the sole Democrat among the six elected statewide officeholders in Jefferson City. The governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer—they’re all Republicans (and all men). The General Assembly is ruby red, too, with a GOP supermajority. The woman crashing this party is Galloway, the state auditor since 2015. She presents herself as a good-government crusader and a “Missouri Democrat”—one whose stances on such issues as gun control and ethics reform are commonsense and shared by a majority of Show-Me State voters.

Though Galloway hasn’t won her party’s primary for the gubernatorial race, she’s the clear favorite, and her campaign is drawing national support. She’s getting advice from the Democratic Governors Association, which spent millions in recent years notching gubernatorial wins in nine states that President Donald Trump carried. Trump won Missouri by 19 points in 2016, but the DGA has released a memo calling the upcoming governor’s race  “wide open” and praising Galloway for her “unique cross-party appeal.” (She was reelected as auditor in 2018 after winning eight Missouri counties that, on the same day, picked conservative Josh Hawley for U.S. senator.)

Trained for the private sector, Galloway was recruited into public office when, twice in a row, an official died and she accepted the appointment to fill the vacancy. Thus she rose to power unscathed by partisan brawls.

Yet things are changing. Her role as auditor is to detect flaws in the finances and performance of others, but now that she’s aiming for the Governor’s Mansion, Galloway finds herself under scrutiny. Sen. Hawley took to Twitter in early 2020 to question her political independence as auditor. Some of his fellow Republicans accuse her of being a far-left liberal, evasive on issues, not transparent, or linked to lobbyists. As the race heats up, more attacks will follow.

Missouri politics can be “pretty cutthroat,” observes Jeremy Walling, a political science professor at Southeast Missouri State University. “Can somebody who’s down-to-earth and normal,” he wonders, “survive in an environment that’s none of those things?” 

The auditorium of the Teamsters Local 682, in South City, is awash in poinsettias, finger foods, and Democrats. It’s the evening of December 12, and Galloway glides in just as her party’s holiday bash in St. Louis is ramping up. She hugs her first city official (License Collector Mavis Thompson), pats another (Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler) on the back, then greets attorney Nelson Mitten: “Heyyy, sir! How’re you doing?”

Mitten had a cameo in her campaign launch video. He appeared during a backlit scene in which a shadowy lobbyist passes money to a shadowy politician. “You obscured my image!” he protests in jest. Galloway tilts back and guffaws. Clad in her customary dark blazer and jeans, she pats his arm, lowers her voice to imitate his, hams it up.

Galloway tends to default to a ramrod-straight posture with her arms crossed. Yet she meets interlocutors where they are: If they’re gesticulating and cracking wise, she will, too. If they’re seated, she stoops over to chat. If they want to vent, she cocks her head to one side, squints in concentration, winces, shakes her head. She doesn’t rush. Without a trace of irony, she says things like “I’m ready for this fight” and “Holy moly!” 

But this particular holiday gathering is only her second of the night—a third beckons out in St. Charles—so it’s time for a speech. She takes the stage to applause.

“I know you guys go to banquets like this all the time,” she says, “and so I will not drone on up here for very long.” She reminds them that in winning reelection in 2018, she was “able to outperform the top of ticket by 12 points”—an indirect reference to her 6-point win and former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill’s 6-point loss. She thanks those in the crowd who made that victory possible. In closing, she wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, then says: “I will see you out on the trail, working our...”—she hesitates, then goes for it, quietly—“asses off.” The crowd loves it.

Later, she expresses a touch of embarrassment: “I try not to curse.”  

Nicole “Nikki” Rogge grew up in a brick home at the end of a sedate cul-de-sac in Fenton. Her parents were conservative. Her younger sister, Megan Rogge, says that their father, Ron, a civil engineer, and their mother, Lorrie, a registered nurse, would have “lively” debates at the dinner table about social issues.

“I wouldn’t say they kept politics out of our house,” says Megan, who’s now a dermatologist  in Texas. “I would just say they never encouraged us personally to go into politics. Our parents are very practical. They definitely told us that stability is the most important thing to have in a job.”

Ron and Lorrie levied taxes on their children to teach them about personal finance. To calculate the kids’ allowances, they used a formula based on each child’s age and the number of household chores logged per week. The taxes went into short-, medium-, and long-term savings containers (i.e., jars and shoeboxes). The kids could later choose how to spend their savings: maybe on a Game Boy game or on the salad bar at Ponderosa.

Nikki was about 9 years old when this began. It made sense to her, because numbers made sense to her. She loved math: It promised a single right answer, no matter how you got there. Her dad even assigned her extra problems to solve on top of her homework.

At St. Paul Catholic School, she was chatty. Teachers warned misbehaving pupils by drawing checkmarks beside their names on the chalkboard; three checkmarks triggered a call to a student’s parents. Nikki was often a two-checkmark offender. She gabbed with friends right up to the line but didn’t cross it.

She brushed up against boundaries again at Ursuline Academy in Kirkwood. The dress code required skirts but allowed an extra layer in winter. Nikki would wear “the biggest, warmest sweatpants she could get away with,” one classmate recalls. While playing soccer during these years, Nikki went to war with her opponents, recalls her former coach Rob LaMear, but not quite to the point of playing dirty. “She might run you over, but then she’d help you up,” he recalls.

She asserted herself off the field, too. During summers, she worked at Kirkwood Material Supply, where she was assigned to the cash register—at least in theory. When the other employees were busy, she operated a forklift and helped load mulch and rocks. After she discovered that she was making a dollar less than the guys, she told management she deserved a raise—and got it.

Offered a soccer scholarship to what’s now the Missouri University of Science & Technology, Nikki accepted. Academics consumed her, recalls a roommate, Jennifer Foster. “It was always her first priority,” Foster says. 

Yet Nikki learned to relax, too. Her sister came to visit and realized: Nikki was popular. “She had always been so concerned about pleasing our parents and not ruffling any feathers,” says Megan, “that seeing her in college—she seemed more liberated and having fun.” Nikki joined two service sororities and won the Queen of Love & Beauty crown at the school’s 2003 St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

She earned degrees in applied mathematics and economics but wasn’t satisfied. She sketched out her future: Over a two-year period, she resolved, she would get a graduate degree in accounting at the University of Missouri business school while passing the notoriously tough CPA exams. Her ultimate goal: to clinch a CFO spot at a private company. Accountants, she knew, were usually the last ones to get fired.

Then she met Jon Galloway—several times. The son of a Republican telecommunications lobbyist, Jon had grown up in Jefferson City. He enrolled at Mizzou’s business school in fall 2006, at the same time as Nikki. In their first week on campus, she tried to make his acquaintance. He stopped her. “I’m not going to introduce myself to you again,” he said. It turned out they’d already met; Nikki had no memory of it. They dated for 10 months, until a muggy night in July 2007, when he proposed on the Eads Bridge, a landmark he admired for its longevity. They married just after graduation, in May 2008. 

The couple found a place in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood, though they rarely saw each other there. Jon landed a job on Democrat Clint Zweifel’s campaign for state treasurer; after Zweifel won, he joined his office in the capital. Nikki was flying around the country (and even to Germany) for accounting firm Brown Smith Wallace, auditing insurance companies and conducting risk assessments for such Fortune 500 giants as Siemens and Caterpillar. 

They loved their work but soon concluded that a life apart wasn’t sustainable. They moved back to Columbia, where Nikki found a job at Shelter Insurance.

She was still at Shelter when, in early 2011, Boone County Treasurer Jan Fugit died. Under Missouri law, the vacancy had to be filled with an appointee chosen by then-Governor Jay Nixon. The Democratic committee in Columbia had a candidate in mind, but their state representative, Stephen Webber, had another. 

“I remember calling her and pitching the idea,” says Webber. “She was taken aback.” Galloway quizzed him on the details, mulled it over, then threw her hat in the ring. To her, it seemed a low-risk way to try public service. 

The move floored her sister. “That was totally bizarre for me,” Megan recalls. “She definitely had never talked about that career aspiration before.”

After Nixon picked Galloway for the job, in April 2011, nervousness seized her, she says. In the rush of introductions and meetings, she tried to hide her nausea. It proved to be morning sickness.

The Galloways’ first child, William, arrived early in Nicole’s tenure as treasurer. A year later, when Nicole went into labor with their second son, she and Jon made their way to the delivery room. She asked him for her iPad. The reason: She wanted to buy certificates of deposit with Boone County funds to ensure that they were properly collateralized. She handled the purchase in between contractions. Thus was born one of Jon’s favorite anecdotes (and their son Benjamin Galloway). 

By that time, Nicole had made a splash in Boone County government. “This stuff could be real dry, but she had a way of lightening it up,” says Boone County Counselor C.J. Dykhouse. “She didn’t take herself too seriously. And she was always extremely hardworking.” She’d often be juggling at least one baby—sometimes holding William in one hand while doing payroll with the other. She did things that her predecessors hadn’t: She issued press releases. She crafted a new debt management policy. She refinanced the county’s debt to save taxpayers $4.6 million. She bought a safe to store checks. She collaborated with the county’s IT staff to build an online portal for unclaimed property—a first in Missouri.

Dykhouse believes Galloway navigated issues through a lens of best practices, not partisan ideology. In county-level governance, he says, “we don’t have Democratic or Republican ways to fix potholes.”

Yet at this stage, Galloway felt at home in the Democratic camp. She believed in “working people values,” she says. She also supported civil rights for the LGBTQ community. “Same-sex marriage was a big issue at that time,” she says. For her, that was “a big defining issue.” 

By early 2015, she felt “happy and satisfied” as Boone County treasurer. She had no reason to expect a very public promotion. “Of course, you always think what could happen next,” she says, “but in no world did I think this is what it would be.”

On the morning of February 26, 2015, Nixon and his chief of staff, Chris Pieper, were pulled out of a meeting. An attorney in the chief executive’s office led them to a nearby room and relayed the news: Auditor Tom Schweich was being rushed to a hospital. He had shot himself—fatally, it turned out. “It was not like anything I’ve ever experienced,” recalls Pieper. “The auditor’s staff—I can’t even describe how distraught they were.”

After dealing with the tragedy, the governor faced a crucial decision: whom to appoint as Schweich’s successor. The auditor is not only a statewide governmental watchdog with subpoena power but also a potential springboard to higher office. (John Ashcroft, Christopher “Kit” Bond, and Claire McCaskill all started out as auditors.) To buy time, Nixon appointed an interim auditor. His staff searched for candidates. About 20 to 30 aspirants contacted the office, recalls Pieper. Galloway was not among them, though her name eventually surfaced. “She wasn’t a political person,” Pieper recalls. “Nixon likes people who are boring—and I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. He likes people who are normal.”

So Pieper called her. “I know it was a surprise we were even asking,” he says. After extensive back-and-forth, Nixon offered her the job, and she accepted.

The office’s staff of about 115 employees had just suffered not one but two suicides. Schweich’s former spokesman, Robert “Spence” Jackson, died by suicide on March 27. A month later, Galloway was sworn in. “Recovery from something like that doesn’t happen in one month,” says Gena Terlizzi, who served on the auditor’s communications team around that time. The new auditor made sure staff had resources to cope, Terlizzi says, and as a CPA and certified fraud examiner, already understood audits.

The office issues more than 100 reports a year. Zeroing in on publicly funded entities, the auditor’s staff scrutinizes finances, calls out fraud and abuse, and gauges performance. In Galloway’s first year, Terlizzi recalls, the office issued a report on a fire protection district in the southwest Missouri town of Goodman. Auditors believed they’d identified $8,000 in payments involving conflicts of interest, plus the misuse of a district debit card. Residents had petitioned for the audit, and the rating was “poor,” so Galloway went to present it in person. 

“I have this memory of driving to Goodman,” Terlizzi says. “She was looking through the audit report, and we were all talking about it. And there was this moment of silence, and then she said, ‘Can you believe this even happened?’ The reason that stuck with me was that, up to that point, I’d never seen any person be so visibly disturbed by something that you or I might say is as dry as an audit report.”

The team arrived in Goodman to a packed school cafeteria, where Galloway presented the findings. The Q&A session that followed grew tense. Attendees starting to target one another with their comments. It almost veered out of control, Terlizzi says, but Galloway steered the focus back to the facts and possible remedies. She wanted to fix it, Terlizzi concludes: “The person you saw at the podium was the person I saw in the car.”

Not everyone was so enamored of Galloway’s performance. The Missouri Alliance for Freedom, a conservative advocacy group, now has a running clock on its website. It purports to count the days, hours, minutes, and seconds since Galloway “refused to produce her government text messages and emails to taxpayers.”

The Alliance’s accusation traces back to March 2017, when Galloway announced a series of audits of Missouri’s budget crisis. She sought to learn, for instance, how many citizens were still waiting for state tax refunds. She asked the Department of Revenue, then under Republican control, for info. The department refused, she claimed, so she issued a subpoena—the first of her tenure to a government agency. The department dropped off a stack of documents soon thereafter.

But the next month, lawyers for the Alliance sent Galloway three Sunshine Law requests. They asked for, among other things, records related to her tax refund probe, including her text messages. After a flurry of correspondence, the Alliance sued the auditor, alleging she’d erased certain texts on purpose. The parties went to trial before Cole County Circuit Judge Jon E. Beetem. In January 2019, the court sided with Galloway. 

Beetem noted that Galloway’s office had turned over 47,000 pages of records to the Alliance—“an enormous good-faith effort,” he wrote, “to comply with several very large public records requests.” The judge found that the office’s records custodian appeared not to realize, until it was too late, that Galloway’s phone (like others in the office) was automatically deleting texts after 30 days. Therefore her texts from March 2017 were gone. Even so, Beetem ruled, the Alliance’s request lacked specificity and referred to data formats that don’t exist. The Alliance declined to appeal the decision. (In the midst of this litigation, a team of lawyers under then–Attorney General Hawley investigated the matter. They, too, found that Galloway’s office had not violated the Sunshine Law.) 

In January 2020, Galloway posted 10 gigabytes of files on her website. Included were the records she produced for the Alliance and for other Sunshine requests going back to her first year in office. The practice, she said, is “the first of its kind by a Missouri statewide elected official.” Meanwhile, the clock on the Alliance’s website ticks on.

In spring 2018, Missourians witnessed the dramatic flameout of a political star: Eric Greitens, the former Navy SEAL–turned–governor, resigned from office amid scandal, criminal prosecution, and the threat of impeachment by his own party. His successor, Mike Parson, was less well known.

A genial cattle farmer from Bolivar, Parson had served for 12 years as Polk County sheriff and another dozen in the General Assembly before ascending to the office of lieutenant governor in 2017. Once Parson became chief executive, he earned praise for lowering the temperature in the Capitol—a breath of fresh country air after the truculence and secrecy of the Greitens administration. In 2019, Parson worked with the legislature to push through, among other things, a workforce development package and a plan to rebuild bridges.

Then, in May, Parson signed a bill banning abortion after eight weeks—no exceptions. Galloway blasted the law in an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in June, calling it “extreme and cruel” to victims of rape and incest. (Parson’s campaign manager, Steele Shippy, responded that Parson “has a track record of protecting the health and safety of women and defending the unborn.”) In late July, news broke that Parson’s administration had allowed 90,000 children to be dropped from Medicaid coverage. 

Galloway announced her candidacy on August 12. Asked what drove her decision, she said, “I think it’s hard to pinpoint one thing.” But when she discussed it with her husband, they wondered: What can a Democratic governor accomplish when the GOP has a supermajority in the legislature? They concluded that she could, for instance, use executive authority to ensure children eligible for Medicaid get coverage.

In fact, the last Democrat to hold the office, Jay Nixon, claims he added 140,000 kids to Medicaid without any Medicaid expansion. “That’s what governors can do,” Nixon says. By the end of his second term in 2016, he claims, he’d also shrunk the waitlist for state-provided mental health services to zero, kept down college tuition, reduced the number of state employees by 5,000, doubled the length of the Katy Trail, added several state parks, and appointed more than 150 judges and many more candidates to boards and commissions.

A governor can say no, too, Nixon points out. The chief executive must spend the budget passed by legislators and can block parts he or she doesn’t like. Veto power is critical, he says. In many cases, the GOP’s supermajority overrode his vetoes, but their bloc often broke apart (sometimes at his urging) so that his vetoes held. That’s how he thwarted, for example, a large tax-cut bill and a “right-to-work” bill. A Democratic governorship in Missouri, Nixon says, involves playing some defense: being the “goalie of democracy.”

He concludes: “I think a respectful tension between the branches of government is a good thing.”

“She has politicized her office,” says Jean Evans, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party. For example, Evans wonders, where was Galloway during the tenure of former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who pleaded guilty to operating a pay-to-play scheme from 2014 through 2018? “I guess when it’s a Democrat, it doesn’t matter?” says Evans. “She’s only anti-corruption if it’s not her own party.”

Galloway’s response on Stenger: Her hands were tied. Missouri law blocks an auditor from investigating a first-class charter county, such as St. Louis, on her own initiative. She must receive a request from the governor, a citizens’ petition, or an invitation from the county’s governing body. Galloway outlined that invitation process to the County Council in a May 2017 letter—two years before Stenger’s indictment—but the council passed. (Councilman Ernie Trakas says a state audit would’ve cost too much; the council chose to launch its own investigation.) 

Galloway insists that her office’s output refutes charges of partisan hackery. She points to Darryl Kempf—a Democrat and former clerk of Cooper County who, as a result of her audit, pleaded guilty to stealing county funds to buy a pickup truck. She points to the deep-blue city of St. Louis, to which she issued a “poor” rating in November for its lack of oversight over local taxing districts. 

Yet the fiercest row over her independence erupted in early 2020. On February 6, as SLM went to press, Galloway released an audit concluding that Hawley “potentially” used state resources as attorney general to help himself win the 2018 senate race against McCaskill. The audit found that his campaign hired consultants to advise his staff during state business hours but failed to properly document it. That failure gave “the appearance of impropriety,” she wrote, though she “could not conclude any laws were violated.” 

Hawley responded on Twitter with his own summary: “no wrongdoing of any kind by my office.” Having already tweeted in January that auditor employees had ties to the McCaskill campaign and intended to alter the report to damage him, Hawley accused Galloway of “partisan manipulation”; Galloway called his attacks “unfair” and denied any bias.

Attached to the audit were hundreds of pages of transcripts of interviews with Hawley’s former staff. Attorney General Eric Schmitt tweeted that this release was “likely in violation of state law.” Galloway responded that no law prohibits their disclosure and that Schmitt’s criticism “rings hollow.”

Politicized auditing is only one of the GOP’s accusations against Galloway. A second is that she has links to lobbyists. “She’s admitted,” wrote Shippy of the Parson campaign, “that lobbying runs in her family. [She] has leveraged insider access to climb the ladder her entire political career.” The Galloway campaign says that although her father-in-law, Doug Galloway, has been a lobbyist for CenturyLink for many years, he is a lifelong Republican who “has no formal involvement” in her professional and political work. Her husband lobbied on behalf of Veterans United Home Loans from 2013 to 2015; the campaign says he has no plans to lobby in the future, adding that he is “proud” to still work for that company.

A third GOP critique of Galloway: She evades issues to conceal “extreme liberal” beliefs. “She won’t say what her beliefs are,” says Representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman, a Republican from Arnold. Look no further than the Second Amendment and abortion, Coleman asserts, claiming that Galloway won’t take a stand on either. 

On guns, Galloway says, she supports universal background checks and the closure of loopholes on the private sale of firearms. “The majority of Missourians agree with me,” she claims. According to the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, approximately 90 percent of Missourians do support “background checks for all sales, including at gun shows and over the internet.”

On abortion, Galloway has a well-documented dislike of HB 126, the new ban on abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions. Yet what does Galloway think abortion policy should be? Are any restrictions acceptable to her? Her campaign responds that “she trusts women to make their own healthcare decisions in consultation with their family, doctor, and faith,” a phrase she’s used several times before.

Coleman interprets any vagueness from Galloway as smoke rising from a hidden fire of extremism: “Why would she not say if she wasn’t extreme?” 

One possibility: She’d rather keep the heat on Parson for HB 126, which her campaign sees as a liability for him. Another possibility: Galloway, as a Democrat, answers to an unwieldy coalition. Writing in The New York Times about his new book, Why We’re PolarizedEzra Klein argues that whereas Republicans have grown “overwhelmingly dependent” on white Christian voters, Democrats must speak to many groups: secular white progressives, culturally conservative African-American Christians, the LGBTQ community, and so on. 

“Appealing to Democrats,” Klein writes, “requires appealing to a lot of different kinds of people with different interests.”

Galloway is also seeking additional support in an unlikely place: independents who picked Greitens in 2016. She believes that his core message resonated: Jefferson City is a rigged system for insiders. What doomed Greitens’ quest, Galloway says, was his thirst for power.  “He lost his way, in my view,” she says, “but these voters still believe it—and they still want change.”

Can a Democrat still win a statewide election in Missouri? “I think this election is determinative of whether [Missouri] has turned red or not,” says David Turner, communications director for the DGA. “It’s a precipice election.”

To Gregg Keller, a conservative public relations consultant in St. Louis, Republican hegemony is already here. He observes that the GOP not only controls the state Capitol but also has a majority in Missouri’s congressional delegation and both senators. Asserts Keller: “Missouri is, at this point, a very deep-red state.”

If so, it wasn’t always. In the ’90s, the Democrats reigned supreme in Jefferson City. They enjoyed a trifecta—control of the Governor’s Mansion, the Senate, and the House. But the label “Democrat” had a looser meaning back then. In the decades after World War II, both parties were big tents. It was possible, for example, to be a liberal “Rockefeller” Republican or a conservative “Dixiecrat” Democrat.

Over time, political scientists posit, a massive realignment occurred. Through “partisan sorting,” the ideologies of left and right came to overlap more cleanly—though not symmetrically—onto the parties. The upshot: “Republican” now roughly equates to “conservative,” while about half of Democrats identify as “liberals.” Meanwhile, the parties map onto urban and rural areas, such that Republicans dominate the countryside while Democrats control large metro areas. 

Galloway’s fate will therefore be tied in large part to how big-city Democrats feel about their party’s nominee for president: If the top of the ticket inspires them to turn out in droves, they’ll vote for that candidate, then vote for Galloway, too. But that won’t be enough for Galloway. She’ll need at least some support in the suburbs and rural areas. 

She has gotten it before. In her 2018 re-election race, Galloway won in Ste. Genevieve, Platte, Howard, Greene, Cole, Callaway, Buchanan, and St. Charles counties. Yet her Republican opponent was Saundra McDowell, who faced $55,000 in legal judgments for unpaid bills and appeared to not meet a basic residency requirement. Galloway made sure, with paid ads, that voters knew about it.

Parson is more formidable. Not only is the economy strong, which favors incumbents, but GOP polling also gives him a 10-point lead. As of January, his campaign committee and the political action committee supporting him, Uniting Missouri, had a combined $6.5 million on hand; Galloway’s own committee and Keep Government Accountable, a PAC supporting her, had a combined $1.4 million on hand. 

The wildcard: outside spending. The Republican Governors Association poured millions into the last governor’s race and may do so again. The Democratic Governors Association spent almost as much winning gubernatorial races in Louisiana and Kentucky last year. 

“We never discuss spending before it happens,” says the DGA’s Turner. “However, this was the first poll we did for 2020, so I think you can glean how high a priority this race is for us from that.” (The DGA’s poll had Galloway 9 points behind Parson.)

Is there a way that she could pull off the upset? “I think on some issues, she has the public opinion advantage,” says Tom Ringenberg, assistant professor of political science at Rockhurst University, “but she’s not in a position I’m envious of. It’s tough for a Democrat to win in Missouri, generally. She’s got an uphill battle.”

Along the way, she’ll have to run a gauntlet that’s all too familiar in American politics: soliciting money, sacrificing time with family, enduring fierce scrutiny.

“There’s going to be a lot of negative ads this election,” predicts Ringenberg. “The personalities running for governor might not be as cutthroat, but I think there’s enough outside money where people are going to be accused of a lot of things.”

Such a test forces a person—no matter how “normal”—to adapt, observes Saint Louis University political science professor Ken Warren. “A genuine, truthful, honest person is going to have a very hard time making it politics,” he says. “I’ve never met a politician who’s normal. They can’t be. A typical person wouldn’t be able to take it.” 

Galloway’s take? “People want someone who is genuine,” she says. “You have to find that within yourself.” 

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