JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s No. 2 statewide elected official is set to announce on Monday that he will seek a full four-year term.
At a park in the capital city, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe is expected to outline his plan to continue focusing his efforts on military veterans, senior citizens and Missouri businesses.
The 57-year-old Republican said he also plans to highlight the need for a long-term fix to the state’s road and bridge system.
“We need to continue to talk about infrastructure,” Kehoe said.
Kehoe was appointed to the post following the resignation of Eric Greitens as governor in June 2018.
Greitens’ departure resulted in Republican Mike Parson vacating the lieutenant governor’s post for the top spot in state government. Parson then tapped Kehoe to fill his position.
At the time, Kehoe was in the final months of his job as a leader in the Missouri Senate and was expecting to return to private life and resume being a businessman.
But he said the crisis created by the Greitens scandal called out for stability.
“It was a critical time for our state,” Kehoe said.
He believes Parson has brought calm leadership to the state since taking over.
Kehoe has lived in mid-Missouri for more than two decades, but his roots are in St. Louis, where he was brought up by a single mother with six children.
As a teenager, he washed cars at a Ford dealership, and by age 25 he was operating a company in Linn that makes ambulances. At age 30, he purchased a Ford dealership in Jefferson City.
His path into politics came in 2005 when then-Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Kehoe to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, where he served as chairman of the panel that oversees road construction spending in the state.
In 2010, Kehoe won his first bid for elected office when he ran for the Senate seat representing Cole and surrounding counties.
Since taking over, Kehoe said he’s traversed the state on behalf of seniors, veterans and Missouri businesses.
“I’ve really been impressed with what’s going on in Missouri and I’d like to keep building on that success,” he said. “The statewide travel has been more invigorating than exhausting.”
Kehoe has scored some legislative and legal victories in his short tenure.
Among his first hurdles was waiting for the Missouri Supreme Court to weigh in on whether Parson had the legal authority to appoint Kehoe to the lieutenant governor’s position.
In a 10-page decision signed by five members, the court rejected a Democratic-led effort to nullify Parson’s appointment to the $83,000-per-year position.
In the lawsuit, the Missouri Democratic Party sought to require that the lieutenant governor position be filled only by an election.
During his first legislative session as lieutenant governor, Kehoe lobbied in favor of a plan designed to help tourism-related businesses in Missouri.
Under that plan, the official first day of school for districts in the state would be no earlier than 14 days before the first Monday in September.
Kehoe argued that earlier school start dates are affecting the tourism industry as more families end their summer vacations in early August. The change could give tourism-related businesses one more summer weekend to make money.
As part of a restructuring of state government, the lieutenant governor’s office also took on the duties of the Missouri Arts Council, adding 11 workers to the small staff of the lieutenant governor’s office.
In June, Parson handed over the reins of power to Kehoe when the governor traveled to Europe for a trade mission and a vacation.
“He and I work very well together. We seem to make a good pair,” Kehoe said.
That’s a sharp contrast from the relationship Parson had with Greitens, who ran for governor and attempted to govern as an outsider. Former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, also had an arm’s-length relationship with his lieutenant governor, Republican Peter Kinder.
Kehoe and Parson rankled some conservative Missourians over their support for an increase in the gas tax during the 2018 election, but Kehoe said he won’t stop advocating for some kind of fix after voters rejected a proposed 10-cent increase to Missouri’s motor fuel tax of 17 cents a gallon.
The filing period to run for the post doesn’t open until next year, and no other Republicans have stepped forward to challenge Kehoe in a primary. No Democrats have announced plans to run.
Records show Kehoe had $221,000 in his campaign chest as of July 1.