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Ashcroft ‘disappointed’ after Parson ignores call for Missouri House special elections

Gov. Mike Parson files to be candidate for governor

Gov. Mike Parson, center, walks into the Jefferson City office of Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, right, on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 to file paperwork to become a candidate for governor. (David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com)

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JEFFERSON CITY — Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft expressed disappointment on Tuesday after a Monday deadline to place Missouri House special elections on the April ballot passed without any action from Gov. Mike Parson.

Ashcroft last week called on Parson to file writs of election to fill several vacancies, saying paperwork needed to be filed by Monday for the contests to appear on the April 5 municipal election ballot.

“Secretary Ashcroft is disappointed the governor has not issued writs of election as he feels all Missourians should be represented fairly and equally,” JoDonn Chaney, spokesman for Ashcroft, said in an email. “As well, Missouri Statute calls for the governor to call for special elections to fill vacancies.”

There are currently six vacancies in the Missouri House. Ashcroft said that without a special election, the six affected districts would go without representation until January 2023.

On Tuesday, Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Parson, said in a text message: “Gov. Parson has not announced a special election.”

Jones hasn’t responded to questions since Friday about the governor’s rationale.

Chaney said Tuesday Ashcroft’s office received no formal response to a letter the elections chief sent Parson regarding the vacancies.

Ashcroft, in his letter to Parson, told the governor that holding the special elections during the April municipal elections would result in minimal costs to taxpayers “but substantial benefit to Missourians.”

Last week, two days after Ashcroft publicly called on Parson to issue the writs of election, the elections chief said in a statement to the Post-Dispatch that he had “complete faith that the governor will do what he has done before to fill vacancies in the Legislature in the most practical manner possible, and I appreciate his continued help in doing so.”

This isn’t the first time a governor has held off on calling a special election despite a provision of Missouri law that says the chief executive should act on vacancies “without delay.”

Former Gov. Jay Nixon was sued in 2014 over vacant legislative seats that went unfilled. Due to vacancies, Republicans were taken below a two-thirds majority in the House they needed to override the Democratic governor.

Two current vacancies are due to Parson tapping lawmakers for high-profile positions in state government.

Parson recently named former state Rep. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, as head of the Department of Revenue. He named former state Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Festus, to be director of the Office of Child Advocate.

Former state Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake Saint Louis, said last week he was resigning and moving to Florida with his family. Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, also resigned last week to take a job with a contractors organization based in St. Charles, the Washington Missourian reported.

Former state Rep. Tom Hannegan, R-St. Charles, died in October. And former state Rep. Rick Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, was expelled from the House last year after his now-adult children accused him of abuse when they were minors.

Both Ashcroft and Parson are Republicans.

Originally posted at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday; updated at 4 p.m. with comments from Ashcroft’s spokesman.(tncms-asset)50ca968a-6cd2-11ec-ade1-00163ec2aa77[0](/tncms-asset)

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