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Schmitt named to be Missouri's new Attorney General

Schmitt named to be Missouri's new Attorney General

November 14th, 2018 by Bob Watson in News

With Gov. Mike Parson, at right, looking on, Eric Schmitt is introduced as Missouri's new attorney general, who'll be taking the position vacated by Josh Hawley, who is now senator-elect Hawley. Standing with Schmitt for the announcement was his wife, Jaime, their children, Stephen, Sophia and Olivia, and his parents, Cathy and Steve Schmitt, in background at left.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

State Treasurer Eric Schmitt will become Attorney General Eric Schmitt starting Jan. 3 — the day current Attorney General Josh Hawley becomes Missouri's newest U.S. senator.

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Gov. Mike Parson announced Schmitt's appointment Tuesday morning.

"Eric is someone who I highly respect, personally trust and have full confidence in to serve as Missouri's chief law enforcement officer," Parson told reporters gathered in his Capitol office. "He has a clear understanding of, and respect for, the rule of law, is a proven leader and is fully qualified to step in, to take the reins (and) defend Missouri's legal interests."

The governor said it also was important to choose someone who, "like me, comes from humble beginnings and knows that public service is an honor and a privilege that comes with great responsibility."

Schmitt, R-Glendale, noted he pursued a law degree and legal career "to fight for people, in the belief that all men are created equal," after watching his father and his friends' parents working hard to provide for their families while pursuing "the American Dream," and because he was impressed by the constitutional "rule of law (where) every individual has dignity and their rights are protected by our Constitution."

Schmitt decided to run for public office "to have a greater impact," after his family's experiences with his oldest child, son Stephen, who is autistic and non-verbal.

His public service work led to Schmitt's serving two terms in the state Senate before being elected to the treasurer's office in November 2016.

"So, here we are, today," Schmitt said. "What an incredible honor it is to be named the attorney for the people of Missouri. And I promise to fight, each and every day, so that the next generation of Missourians have the same opportunities I've enjoyed, in the greatest country on Earth."

He said everyone is entitled to be treated equally and to have "a fair shake under the law."

Schmitt pointed to his work in the state Senate to reform municipal court operations, particularly in St. Louis County, "where some cities treated citizens as nothing more than ATMs."

He added: "I'll bring the undying commitment I brought to that fight to the attorney general's office, and ensure we honor the rule of law with justice and fairness for all."

However, Schmitt said, it's too early to talk about specific cases or policies that he'll pursue, until he meets with Hawley and his staff about where things stand now in the attorney general's office operations.

He said he will "reside in Jefferson City," following the edict of a state law requiring the attorney general to "reside at the seat of government" — a legal requirement that is not imposed on any other statewide officeholder.

Schmitt said Parson didn't ask him to take the attorney general's job until Sunday.

State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, and an attorney, told the News Tribune: "In his legislative service, Eric Schmitt took on tough and complicated legal issues in a bipartisan manner, putting law and fact above party or ideology. I hope and expect he'll take the same attitude to the attorney general's office."

Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, said in a statement: "Though in most cases we have opposing views on reproductive freedom, NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri would like to see Attorney General Eric Schmitt take strides to make improvements on important issues that will help Missouri women and families succeed.

"Eric Schmitt could prove that he cares about the success and health of Missourians by doing something about the thousands of untested rape kits in the state and standing up for survivors of sexual assault."

Steve Rupp, president of Missouri Right to Life, applauded Parson's selection of Schmitt as attorney general.

"Missourians elected former Attorney General Josh Hawley for his pro-life values. We are thankful that Gov. Parson has appointed another strong, pro-life attorney general who respects and believes that life is precious from inception to natural death. We look forward to his work to defend innocent human lives in his new position."

State Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, liked Parson's choice.

"He's a thoughtful, well-respected former member of the Legislature," Fitzwater said. "He works incredibly hard. He's transparent, a good man and the right choice, in my opinion."

Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, added: "Treasurer Schmitt has done a wonderful job serving Missourians. He's been out there, just working really hard to make sure the treasurer's office is the best that it can be (and) working for transparency, so Missourians can see where their tax dollars go."

Parson said the decision to appoint Schmitt wasn't made in a hurry.

"We've known for months that this day might come, and during that time, I knew that making a quick, deliberate decision would help to provide a smooth, stable transfer of leadership."

Parson — elected as lieutenant governor in 2016 — became governor June 1, after then-Gov. Eric Greitens resigned, following a tumultuous spring that included his being named in two different criminal charges in St. Louis.

Greitens' resignation was part of an agreement with St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to drop felony computer theft charges if he resigned.

Parson told reporters Tuesday: "(I) recognize that, once again, I am in a remarkable, unique situation. From the beginning of my administration, it has been crucial that we provide (stability) and instill confidence for all Missourians, that their government will continue to work for them."

Parson's selection of Schmitt as attorney general creates a vacancy in the treasurer's office that Parson also will have to fill.

"These are very serious steps that we take (and) we're already in the process of that possible appointment," the governor said. "We're going to work our way through that and find the best qualified candidate, we feel, for Missourians."

He didn't set a deadline for making that appointment.

In 2019, after Parson fills the state treasurer's vacancy created by Schmitt's appointment to the attorney general's office, four of Missouri's six statewide officeholders will be in jobs to which they were not elected.

Parson was elected as lieutenant governor in 2016, then became governor on June 1, after then-Gov. Eric Greitens resigned — as the Constitution provides for succession to the governor's office. The office will be up for election again in 2020.

Missouri's Constitution also says, in Article IV, Section 4: "The governor shall fill all vacancies in public offices unless otherwise provided by law, and his appointees shall serve until their successors are duly elected or appointed and qualified."

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State law further explains, in Chapter 105, Section 030: "Whenever any vacancy occurs or exists in any state or county office originally filled by election of the people, other than in the offices of lieutenant governor, state senator or representative, sheriff, or recorder of deeds in the city of St. Louis, the vacancy shall be filled by appointment by the governor "

Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe was elected in 2014 as a state senator from Mid-Missouri's seven-county 6th District, and was prohibited by term limits from running for a third term. Parson chose him on June 18 to fill the vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office created when Parson became governor. The Missouri Supreme Court currently is deciding whether the governor has the constitutional authority to fill a vacancy in the lieutenant governor's office. The office will be up for election again in 2020.

Eric Schmitt was elected as state treasurer in 2016, but will become attorney general Jan. 3, 2019, after Hawley's resignation is effective so that he can become Missouri's newest U.S. Senator. The office will be up for election again in 2020.

Someone will become state treasurer after Schmitt resigns that office so he can become attorney general. That office also will be up for election again in 2020.

Auditor Nicole Galloway has been serving as an appointed auditor since April 2015, just three months after Tom Schweich, who had been re-elected in November 2014, took the oath of office for his second term, and just under two months after Schweich committed suicide.

However, she was elected last week to a full, four-year term so, in 2019, Galloway will be one of two statewide officeholders working the job to which they were elected.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft was elected in 2016, and still holds the office — which will be up for election again in 2020.

EARLIER COVERAGE: 

Treasurer Eric Schmitt will become Missouri attorney general