A Cole County judge on Wednesday rejected an effort by the Missouri Democratic Party to block Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe’s elevation to lieutenant governor.
The suit centered on an ambiguity in Missouri law on whether the governor has the authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor when there is a vacancy, something that is not explicitly spelled out in the state’s Constitution.
The Democrats contended that an election was required to fill the office of lieutenant governor now that Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has ascended to governor. Parson last month tapped Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican who had served as the Senate majority leader, to serve as his replacement.
Cole County Judge Jon Beetem ruled that the plaintiffs — the Missouri Democratic Party and a World War II veteran from Hartville — lacked the authority to remove Kehoe, who has already been sworn in as lieutenant governor, from office.
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He also noted that two previous governors have made similar appointments.
Beetem also said that the Democrats’ claim that Kehoe’s appointment will hurt the chances to elect a Democrat lieutenant governor in 2020 “is conjectural, hypothetical, and speculative.”
“It is entirely unknown and unknowable whether Lieutenant Governor Kehoe will decide to run for the office of Lieutenant Governor in 2020; whether he will prevail in the Republican primary if he does run; which Democratic candidates, if any, might run against him; and whether his incumbency would provide any material advantage in the election if he does run and win the primary,” the judge said.
The Missouri Democratic Party did not immediately comment on the ruling.
Parson said in a statement that the ruling “affirms our position as well as the position of previous Governors from both parties. We look forward to continuing our work with Lieutenant Governor Kehoe and also commend the work of Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office in effectively arguing the merits of this case on an important constitutional issue.”