Gov. Mike Parson had his moment in the sun this week.
In his last State of the State address before voters decide whether to give him a full four-year term, he reported that under his direction, Missouri is adding jobs, rebuilding bridges, saving money on Medicaid and taking action on violent crime.
But while a packed House chamber full of Republicans applauded their leader, Democrats began painting a very different picture of the man they want to throw out this November.
State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who is vying for Parson's job, went first. While Parson was still speaking, her campaign released a video accusing him of kicking more than 100,000 children off of the state's Medicaid rolls. It profiled two mothers whose sons lost their coverage.
"He needs to fix the health care crisis he helped create," Galloway said in the video. "We have to do better by our children."
Parson and his allies have long dismissed those charges, saying the drop in enrollment in 2018 and 2019is actually the work of an improving economy and renewed efforts to make sure everyone getting benefits actually qualifies for them.
Parson even applauded his Medicaid director for increased "efficiency" in his speech Wednesday.
Experts doubt Parson's explanations, though, and Galloway's allies in the General Assembly piled on regardless.
"This was a disappointing and, frankly, troubling speech," Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, said in a statement. "More than 100,000 kids have had their health care taken away by Gov. Parson’s administration, and today, he continued to ignore this crisis."
Walsh and House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, also went after Parson for inaction on rising levels of gun violence, which has driven homicides in Kansas City and St. Louis and raised concerns in Springfield and Columbia.
After meeting with the mayors of the state's four largest cities, Parson proposed increasing funds for witness protection, bolstering resources for mental health services and making limited changes to gun laws, but Quade said all she sees is "a whole lot of lip service."
She said her members, on the other hand, are putting forward legislation to make a real difference and going after the "root causes of where we're at in our state."
Gun violence experts interviewed by the News-Leader have been conflicted about whether either side's proposals will do much to stop gun violence, but say anything that makes life better in violent areas would be welcome progress.
Quade also countered Parson's talk of Missouri's economy becoming one of the "best in the Midwest," citing a recent University of Missouri analysis showing the state has lagged behind its neighboring states since the recession.
"Big picture takeaway is he is wanting to celebrate a whole lot of things while we are having a whole lot of Missourians suffer," Quade said.
It all sounded like a standard election-year response to an election-year speech to Dan Ponder, a political science professor at Drury University.
Ponder said Parson did exactly what he expects from a Republican governor in a state like Missouri. The general focus is on things like creating jobs and rebuilding infrastructure, which are always important to voters and are difficult to attack.
When Parson delves into tougher topics like gun violence, he takes limited action, Ponder said, which allows him to show he cares without angering conservatives with things that look like aggressive gun control.
Parson said the Democrats, on the other hand, are taking some more aggressive shots, like painting the governor as someone purging innocent children from Medicaid rolls, in hopes of finding something that resonates with their base and moderates they'll need to win.
"You’ve got Parson doing what you’d expect from a Republican governor in a Republican state," he said, "and Democrats doing what they have to because they need to get something to connect on the jaw."