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Parson to pick Missouri's next attorney general soon

Gov. Mike Parson speaks at Ranken Technical College during a day-long tour of St. Louis on Sept. 7, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson speaks at Ranken Technical College during a day-long tour of St. Louis on Sept. 7, 2018.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to soon name a new state attorney general, now that incumbent Josh Hawley has been elected to the U.S. Senate.

And his decision could set up a political version of musical chairs.

Hawley's vacancy will be the second that Parson will fill since he took office less than six months ago.

Parson named then-state Sen. Mike Kehoe as lieutenant governor after Parson was elevated to governor, following the June resignation of fellow Republican Eric Greitens.

The top contenders for Hawley's post are believed to include state Treasurer Eric Schmitt and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft. Both are lawyers from the St. Louis area.

Schmitt could not be reached for comment. Ashcroft said in a statement emailed Friday:

“Missouri cases at the U.S. Supreme Court and here at home deal with the safety of our citizens and highlight the vital importance of the attorney general’s responsibilities. I am confident that Governor Parson will make a timely appointment of an exceptionally qualified attorney whose skill and integrity will vigorously advance the interests of the people of Missouri.”

If either one is selected, that means Parson would have to fill the posts they vacate.  

The upshot could soon be that the majority of Missouri's statewide office holders will have been appointed, not elected, to their office.

Ironically, top Republicans threatened several years ago to pass legislation requiring vacant statewide officers be filled by a statewide vote, and not by gubernatorial appointment.

That threat came after then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, named Nicole Galloway to become the state auditor following the death of Tom Schweich. He was a Republican and Galloway is a Democrat.

Galloway won election to her first full term on Tuesday, and soon will be the only Democrat holding statewide office in Missouri after Hawley’s defeat of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Republicans seem to have dropped the statewide vote idea, now that a fellow Republican is governor.

Parson gave no timetable for his decision, in a statement sent to St. Louis Public Radio.

“ … The responsibility to appoint the next attorney general is one that I take very seriously. We will continue our deliberative process to ensure we provide stability and continuity to our state’s legal representation,” the governor wrote.

“Missouri’s next attorney general will be someone who clearly understands and has the ability to continue Josh’s record of success in shepherding the state’s legal business by defending Missouri values and protecting our rights. In order to provide a smooth transition, we plan to make our announcement in the near future.”

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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