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Here’s why deciding Missouri’s next Lieutenant Governor won’t be a simple process

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The resignation of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens means new vacancies at the state's highest levels.

“The Lt. Governor Parson becomes governor, and then it's actually unclear,” Dr. Beth Vonnahme, Chair of UMKC's Political Sciences Department said.

“In Article 4, Section 4 the authority to generally appoint vacancies is given to the governor, but then in other parts of the constitution it gives him specific authority for certain offices, and the lieutenant governor is excluded,” Vonnahme explained.

In past situations where the Missouri Lieutenant Governor has taken over the Governor's office, the new governor will appoint a lieutenant.

“The most recent case was in 2000 when Mel Carnahan died, Governor Wilson was in sort of an ideal position in the sense that there had already been an election, so there was a lieutenant governor elect so there was just a few months period where there was that vacancy, so he simply asked Lieutenant Governor-elect Maxwell to start early,” Vonnahme said.

In this case, with years to go until the next election, Parson doesn't have that luxury.

“We're very far from an election so if the position is left vacant we're talking about well over a year and a half or two year vacancy for that position and that doesn't seem like a great plan, so I suspect the legislature will go along with Parson appointing somebody,” Vonnahme said.

Not even the experts can speculate when that might happen, or who's on Parson's short list.

“I assume it will be a non-controversial Republican, usually when you're appointing somebody for these kinds of positions you don't want to cause rancor within your own party so it's going to be somebody who's pretty much a typical party Republican,” Vonnahme said.

One thing that is clear, is that this decision will affect Missouri politics for years to come.

“For him, the question becomes, does he choose somebody who he wants to set up to run for lieutenant governor in the next election, or does he want to run for governor in the next election, and if so, the sort of political maneuverings might come into play,” Vonnahme said.

There has been legislation introduced in past years to try to amend the Missouri constitution and clarify the process of picking a lieutenant governor.

That legislation has failed repeatedly, most recently when it was introduced in february during the last legislative session.