Amid a lack of complete legal clearness in the state constitution, Gov. Mike Parson has appointed State Sen. Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City as Missouri’s lieutenant governor. The office has been vacant since the former lieutenant governor, Parson, moved into the governor’s chair when Gov. Eric Greitens resigned.
Democratic Party members are challenging the appointment on grounds that the governor doesn’t have the authority to name a lieutenant governor. To make a legal challenge is a mistake. Both Parson and Kehoe are Republicans.
The constitution provides no exact procedure about how a lieutenant governor should be replaced once a vacancy occurs. The constitution does give governors the power to fill vacancies “unless otherwise provided by law.” Missouri law does provide the governor with the power to fill elective offices, but it does provide a few exceptions, including the role of lieutenant governor.
Joe Bednar, a Democrat who served as legal counsel for three governors, and Lowell Pearson, a Republican, and former chief counsel to Gov. Matt Blunt, told the Associated Press that they believed the appointment was legal. They both take the position that state law concerning appointments excluded the office of lieutenant governor and that didn’t mean that one couldn’t be appointed. The constitution says the state shall have a lieutenant governor, and Parson was obligated to fill the vacancy, according to the two lawyers.
When they were state senators in 2013, both Parson and Kehoe voted for a bill that would have directed the governor to call a special election to elect a new lieutenant governor. The bill was passed by the Senate and House but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon.
Kehoe was elected to the state Senate in 2010. His term would have reached the eight-year limit this year. He was majority floor leader and served as a member of the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission. He is a former chairman of that group. He was a member of the board of regents of the State Technical College at Linn.
Kehoe is well qualified for the lieutenant governor’s position. We hate to see a challenge to his appointment. That is not in the best interests of state government, which has had enough legal entanglements this year due to ex-Gov. Greitens.