Gov. Mike Parson addresses a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly on Monday evening as House Speaker Todd Richardson looks on. | Annika Merrilees/Missouri Business Alert

Judge says Parson had authority to appoint Kehoe as lieutenant governor

A judge has confirmed that Gov. Mike Parson had the authority to appoint Mike Kehoe as Missouri’s lieutenant governor.

Parson, formerly the state’s lieutenant governor, was sworn in as governor on June 1, following the resignation of former Gov. Eric Greitens. The state then faced a legal question of how to fill the vacant lieutenant governor position.

Parson, a Republican, appointed Kehoe, a fellow Republican who had just served two terms in the Missouri Senate and served as the majority floor leader. The Missouri Democratic Party sued, arguing that the position had to be filled through an election.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem issued an opinion Wednesday in favor of Parson.

The case involved a section of the Missouri Constitution that states, “The governor shall fill all vacancies in public offices unless otherwise provided by law.” The section goes on to say that his appointees will serve “until their successors are duly elected or appointed and qualified.”

The plaintiffs argued that the office of lieutenant governor should remain vacant until after the 2020 general election

“Given the importance of the office of Lieutenant Governor,” the opinion states, “this Court is reluctant to adopt an interpretation of Missouri law that would generate such an unreasonable and anomalous result.”

The Missouri Democratic Party argued that since Kehoe could run for lieutenant governor as an incumbent in 2020, it could make it more difficult for a Democratic candidate to be elected.

Parson told reporters Wednesday that the court’s decision was what he expected.

“We think it was very important to get that lieutenant governor seat in place, and to move forward,” Parson said.

The legislature could try to address the procedure for appointing a lieutenant governor again in the future.

“I don’t know what the legislature will do,” Parson said of that possibility, “and you never know about that.”

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