Newly minted Republican Governor Mike Parson is pondering how to handle the lieutenant governor position, the seat he vacated when he was sworn into last week. He replaces former Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned last Friday amid a flurry of scandals.
Parson has said he doesn’t like the state being without a second in command, but there’s no clear protocol for assigning the seat to anyone.
Missouri statute and the state Constitution don’t establish a line of succession for the post. The governor appoints a replacement for every other statewide elected position that becomes vacant in Jefferson City.
Parson confirmed Monday that he’s considering calling a special session for the legislature to examine a bill to allow him to appoint a lieutenant governor. The session would likely be called concurrently with the annual veto session that brings both the full House and Senate back to the Capitol in mid-September.
Parson has indicated he wants a lieutenant governor in place to assist with his own transition to the top spot.
“If there’s ever a time those two offices need to be working together, it’s now,” said Parson.
Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated legislature seem to be coalescing around GOP Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe to fill the position. Republican Senator Caleb Rowden of Columbia confirms the speculation and approves of the choice.
“His name has probably been mentioned more publicly than others, and I certainly would have no problem,” said Rowden. “If we go down that road I think he’d do a great job.”
As the Senate Majority Floor Leader, Kehoe is known for his diplomatic approach in the legislature and is liked and respected by members of both parties.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh of Bellefontaine Neighbors has stated numerous times that she enjoys working with Kehoe even though they have sharp political differences.
Kehoe is known to hold a steady demeanor on the Senate floor when debate can reach a fever pitch and chamber members sometimes become highly combative.
The eight-year member of the upper chamber is term-limited and could make a nearly seamless transition to be lieutenant governor.
Kehoe has a background in the automotive industry, having run Linn, MO. based ambulance manufacturer Osage Industries. He also owned and operated the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Jefferson City for 20 years.
Kehoe was appointed by Republican Governor Matt Blunt to serve on Missouri’s Highway and Transportation Commission which governs the state Transportation Department (MoDOT) in 2005, and in 2009 was elected to be its the chairman.
Kehoe sponsored a proposal to boost the state’s sales tax by 0.75 to finance transportation projects in 2014. The plan was rejected by voters.
Not all lawmakers think it’s necessary to fill the vacant lieutenant governor position.
Although he proposed a legislative measure this year to have the governor appoint a lieutenant governor, Republican Senator Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph told Missourinet later that resolving the issue before the term ends in 2020 is not necessary.
“There’s really no need. It’s just not that critical that the Office of Lieutenant Governor be filled. It doesn’t really matter because if the lieutenant governor spot is empty and something happens to the governor, there’s an order of succession in the Constitution that would kick in. So, it’s not like we’d be without a governor,” said Schaaf.
In the event a decision is made to fill the position, Senator Rowden thinks Kehoe is equipped with all the qualifications to be lieutenant governor. “I think he’s just designed for that type of job, his personality and the things that he brings to the table, his charisma.”
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