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'Big victory' — Missouri Republicans flock to Springfield for Lincoln Days event

A Missouri Lincoln Days promotional logo featuring the U.S. flag.
Courtesy Missouri Republican Party
Missouri Lincoln Days took place the weekend of Feb. 10, 2023.

This past weekend, Springfield hosted Missouri Lincoln Days, a big annual gathering of Show-Me State Republicans. KSMU's Gregory Holman talks to Springfield News-Leader politics reporter Galen Bacharier about highlights from the event.

Gregory Holman: Welcome to KSMU, Galen.

Galen Bacharier: Thanks, Greg. Great to be here.

Q: Let's start with — Prediction's a dangerous game, but let's start with a question about predictions. Back in 2020, Gov. Mike Parson went to Lincoln Days. He told the crowd that he was about to beat the Democratic Party's nominee for governor in that year's election. That was Nicole Galloway. He also said Missouri Republicans were gaining steam in terms of winning statewide elections. And he said, "In 2022, we're doing the sweep, I'm telling you that right now." Well, Galen, did they do the sweep?

A: They sure did. In 2022, they knocked out the final Democrat that stood in the way of that being the case — that was Nicole Galloway. After she lost the governor's race, she said that she was exiting public office. She was currently the state auditor; a Republican took that office.

That means that every statewide office in the state now belongs to Republicans. That was a big fact at this year's banquet. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said, "Every statewide official in the state is a Republican; isn't that an awesome thing?" This was a big moment for them. They hold all of those statewide offices; they continue to hold supermajorities in the legislature. This was sort of what they've been looking for, ever since the tide started to turn their way over the last couple of decades.

Q. And so at Missouri Lincoln Days, it's wall-to-wall Republicans. The politicians there, as I understand it, they are eager to get their messages out to the party base. What were Missouri's Republican Party leaders talking about this past weekend?

A. Absolutely. It's always interesting covering an event like this, because this is very much a captive audience for these folks. These are folks who are always going to vote their way. They are folks that oftentimes are involved in party infrastructure at the local levels, political consultants, committee people at the county level. One thing that they continually return to was a big victory for them this past year, and that was the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. Abortion has been a huge issue for the Republican Party. Obviously here in this state, they passed the "trigger law" that allowed for the immediate banning of legal abortion. So that was a big applause line.

Another one that was interesting was the idea of initiative petition reform. Legislators in Jefferson City have really been focused these last couple of years on changing that process, which — for those who aren't familiar — was responsible for getting medical marijuana, recreational marijuana and Medicaid expansion on the ballot.

It was interesting to hear them talk about that in more of a direct way. In the legislature — a lot of the time — folks have been a little more reticent to frame that discussion as a direct response to some of those more progressive ballot measures. But a state senator during this panel about initiative petition reform said that we have to get a better handle on what she called these "crazy left-wing" initiative petition things — a little more of a direct response there.

And then finally, what got the most applause throughout some of the speeches were legislation that would target and is aimed at transgender youth, whether that be restricting transgender girls from youth sports, or from addressing gender-affirming health care and putting restrictions on that.

Q. Definitely topics that have been in the news very recently, with that clinic in St. Louis. Now this year's Lincoln Days had a scheduled special guest speaker in the form of Ronna Romney McDaniel. She recently won reelection as the national chair of the Republican Party, but there was also an unannounced guest speaker who called in on someone's phone, right? What can we take away from that, Galen?

A. Absolutely. This was in-between statewide officials going and giving their remarks during the banquet on Friday evening: We got an unannounced call from former President Donald Trump. He called in on the state party head's phone to give some brief remarks. He said, "You know, I I've been to Missouri so many times. I love Missouri." He pledged to come on out and do a rally again soon. Got a lot of applause. Obviously a lot of cheers.

[Trump] remains a very popular figure among Republicans. Obviously the Missouri Republican Party — like everyone throughout the country on that side of the aisle — is now deciding over the coming years: Are they going to stick with him? He remains obviously very popular — or are they going to opt for someone like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, or someone else?

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.