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Special election to replace Paul LeVota in Missouri Senate unlikely this year

Sen. Paul LeVota, an Independence Democrat, said his resignation would take effect Aug. 23 to give him time to coordinate his office’s transition and to allow Gov. Jay Nixon time to call a special election to fill his seat.
Sen. Paul LeVota, an Independence Democrat, said his resignation would take effect Aug. 23 to give him time to coordinate his office’s transition and to allow Gov. Jay Nixon time to call a special election to fill his seat. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

When Paul LeVota announced he would resign from the Missouri Senate over allegations he sexually harassed legislative interns, he gave himself a month to officially step down in order to allow time to call a special election to replace him.

But by the time he made his intentions known to the governor, a deadline had passed, making a special election this year nearly impossible. That means his district likely won’t have a state senator until well into 2016 — or even later.

LeVota, a Democrat from Independence, denied any wrongdoing but said he would step down from his legislative seat effective Aug. 23. His motivation for holding onto his seat for another month, he said, was to give him time to coordinate his office’s transition and to allow Gov. Jay Nixon time to call a special election to fill his seat.

But Scott Holste, the governor’s press secretary, says a special election can’t be called until LeVota officially vacates the seat. And according to the Missouri secretary of state’s office, July 28 was the last day that there was time for ballots to be prepared for a Nov. 3 special election and sent to individuals with valid military-overseas ballot applications.

LeVota didn’t even send his resignation letter to the governor until July 27.

In order to hold down the cost of a special election, the governor usually calls them to coincide with regular election dates. Nov. 3 was the last election date already scheduled for this year.

Several election dates already scheduled next year would take place during the 2016 legislative session — three local elections and the March statewide presidential primary. After that, there is only the August statewide primary and the November general election.

Last year, Nixon called three special elections for open House seats to coincide with the August primary. That created the unusual situation of some candidates appearing on two ballots simultaneously — one allowing them to serve in the House for the final five months of 2014 and another making them their party’s nominee on the November ballot for a full two-year term.

LeVota’s district has been a reliable Democratic seat for years. LeVota faced no Republican opposition in 2012, and his Democratic predecessor, Victor Callahan, also ran unopposed in 2008 and 2004.

A handful of Democrats have expressed interest in replacing LeVota, most notably former Jackson County Democratic Committee executive director Jessica Podhola, state Rep. John Rizzo and Independence Alderman Chris Whiting.

Another Senate seat will also open up this month after Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey of St. Charles announced last week he was also resigning from the legislature. Dempsey said his motivation for resigning more than a year early was to launch a new private-sector career and spend more time with his family.

To reach Jason Hancock, call 573-634-3565 or send email to jhancock@kcstar.com.

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