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Nixon Says He Has Authority To Appoint Mo. Lt. Governor If Office Becomes Vacant

Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon.
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
Mo. Gov. Jay Nixon.

Aside from Medicaid expansion, the most talked-about issue so far during the just-begun Missouri legislative session is whether Governor Jay Nixon (D) has the authority to appoint a new Lt. Governor if Peter Kindersucceeds fellow Republican Jo Ann Emerson in Congress.

Following his annual Prayer Breakfast earlier today, Governor Nixon told reporters he believes he has the authority to appoint a new Lt. Governor if the office suddenly becomes vacant.

“The two times in recent history where that position has become open for (different) reasons, the Governor has appointed a Lt. Governor and those folks served," Nixon said.  "I think history would say that that authority lies there, yeah.”

In 2000, Missouri Governor Roger Wilson (D) appointed Joe Maxwell (D) to begin serving immediately as Lt. Governor less than two months before his elected term was set to begin.  At the time, Wilson had just taken over as Governor following the plane crash that took the life of Governor Mel Carnahan (D).

House Speaker Pro-tem Jason Smith (R, Salem) disagrees with Nixon's opinion.  He sayscurrent law requires a special election for Lt. Governor, but admits it’s unclear as to how it’s to be carried out.

“State Rep(resentative), State Senate, Lt. Governor...the Recorder of Deeds (for) St. Louis, and (county) sheriffs," Smith said.  "That’s what the law provides, but it does not provide on how to enforce those special elections (for Lt. Governor), unlike those other sections.”

Smith is sponsoring legislation that would allow special elections for all vacated statewide offices, but would schedule them in November to coincide with other races in order to save money.  Smith is also seeking to replace Emerson in Congress, along with Kinder, fellowState Representative Todd Richardson(R, Poplar Bluff), Missouri GOP Executive Director Lloyd Smith, former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, former Congressman Wendell Bailey, and former State Senator Jason Crowell (R, Cape Girardeau).

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.