Missouri Judge Says Governor Can Appoint Lt. Governor
A Missouri judge upheld a governor's right to appoint a lieutenant governor Wednesday, bringing some clarity to a decades-old legal argument in the state.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem's ruling said Gov. Mike Parson had the authority to appoint Mike Kehoe as the state's lieutenant governor last month. He also said the Missouri Democratic Party and a man named Darrell Cope, who had sued in protest of the appointment, lacked the authority to do so.
Beetem dismissed the case.
Emily Waggoner, executive director for the Missouri Democratic Party, challenged the ruling in an email.
"We strongly believe that Missourians deserve the opportunity to vote for their Lieutenant Governor and are considering appealing the decision," she wrote.
The party had argued that ambiguity in Missouri's constitution and law meant the office of the lieutenant governor should remain vacant until the next election.
That argument was "unconvincing," Beetem wrote. If the Legislature wanted to block a governor from appointing the executive branch's No. 2 position, he said, it would need to pass more explicit laws.
In a statement, Parson praised the decision and Attorney General Josh Hawley's office for successfully arguing for the dismissal.
"We look forward to continuing our work with Lieutenant Governor Kehoe," he said.
Kehoe said in a statement that he would have abided by the court's decision, no matter the result.
"I am grateful for, and agree with, Judge Beetem's ruling and look forward to continuing to work on behalf of all Missourians," he said.
Both Parson and Kehoe are Republicans.
Missouri governors have often claimed the right to appointment a lieutenant governor, while many lawmakers have historically disagreed.
Over the past few decades, two governors appointed men recently elected as lieutenant governor to begin their terms early, but those instances were never challenged in court.