Missouri Republicans are split over what to do about Gov. Eric Greitens, a fellow Republican who’s been indicted for felony invasion of privacy after allegedly taking a semi-nude photo of a woman without her consent.
The state Republican Party contends that the indictment is “a political hit job’’ engineered by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat. But there are increasing calls from GOP lawmakers, especially in the state Senate, for Greitens to at least consider stepping down.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, from Jefferson City, issued a statement asking “whether the governor has the ability to effectively lead the state going forward. His actions have damaged the reputation of the office …. I take no pleasure in questioning his leadership ability going forward, but I do so with the confidence that Missouri is greater than one individual …”
In the House, Speaker Todd Richardson said he will convene a group of lawmakers to examine the accusations against the governor. Any impeachment proceedings would need to start in the Missouri House.
Meanwhile, state Democrats appear to be of one mind, said state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a Democrat from St. Louis.
“Well, I think the Democrats, they want to play it out all the way until November,” Nasheed said with a chuckle. “I don’t think they want anything to happen real fast right now.”
Mixed signals on legislative impact
Nasheed noted that Greitens’ relationships with legislators, including many Republicans, was already strained before he admitted a month ago that he had engaged in an extramarital affair in 2015, before he launched his campaign for governor.
Sen. Gary Romine, a Republican from Farmington, has clashed with the governor on a number of issues, including Greitens’ move last year to have a reconfigured state Board of Education fire Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven.
Romine said the governor’s felony charge is just the latest incident that has compromised Greitens’ ability to lead.
“When you add the issues with the Confide app, you have the issue with the State Board of Education, you have the issue of the ‘dark money’ that’s been used against fellow Republicans, in the Senate particularly – all these things cast a dark shadow on his ability to lead,” Romine said.
Romine is concerned about the impact of the latest controversy on the General Assembly’s ability to carry out its daily business.
“You have to wonder what the governor’s position is on a particular issue – that will be hampered to some degree,” he said. “The House and Senate will continue to conduct business as we should, but obviously it will have the aura of effect on it.”
Republican lawmakers forge own path
Rep. Kathie Conway, a Republican from St. Charles, is critical of the governor – but she’s confident legislators will stay on task.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to lose focus of what we need to do,’’ said Conway, who’s in her last year in the House. “We know how to get things done without the governor being in favor of what we’re doing.”
Conway predicted that some sort of tax-cut measure – although not necessarily the governor’s – may win legislative approval this session.
As for Greitens’ fate, Conway was among the first who called on him to consider resigning. She’s sticking with that stance, adding that Greitens needs to recognize the damage to his party and the state if more personal scandals become public.
“This isn’t about infidelity or sex,’’ Conway said. “This is about power and vulnerability.”
State Rep. Gina Mitten, a Democrat from Richmond Heights observed that Greitens’ sex-related controversy may have helped propel swift House action on a long-sought bill that imposes stricter penalties against “revenge porn,’’ where one person makes public intimate images of someone else without their permission.
“I do believe the bill gained support in light of the allegations,’’ Mitten said.