Government & Politics

Gov. Parson picks his replacement as lieutenant governor, reopening a legal debate

Gov. Mike Parson named his successor as lieutenant governor Monday, tapping Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City to take the job left vacant earlier this month when Parson became governor.

Yet whether the governor has the constitutional authority to appoint a lieutenant governor remains an open question.

Parson said he chose Kehoe, 56, because he wanted someone who possessed certain attributes: "leadership, humility, meaningful experience, a willingness to listen to your adversaries and the heart of a public servant."

"When I considered those things, there was one person who clearly emerged," Parson said.

The pick came as no surprise, as Kehoe has long been viewed as the odds-on favorite to get the appointment.

A St. Louis native, Kehoe worked for decades in the automobile dealers industry, eventually purchasing a franchise in 1992 that he ran for 20 years.

In 2005, he was appointed by former Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, to serve on the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission. He became the commission's chairman in 2009.

He was elected to the Missouri Senate in 2010, representing a district that includes Jefferson City. In 2015, he was elected by his colleagues to be Senate majority floor leader, the second highest ranking job in the chamber.

Kehoe is term-limited and thus cannot run for another four years in the Senate.

The appointment reopens a longstanding legal debate over how the state should go about filling a vacancy in its lieutenant governor post.

Unlike many states, the governor and lieutenant governor do not run as a ticket. They are elected separately.

The Missouri Constitution lays out the duties of lieutenant governor, which mainly involve sitting on a few boards and presiding over and casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate. If the governor's office is left vacant, the lieutenant governor is next in line.