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Who is Mike Parson? Meet the man who could replace Greitens

Who is Mike Parson? Meet the man who could replace Greitens

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Greitens and Parson

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (left) talks to Lt. Gov. Mike Parson during the Governor's Ham Breakfast at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Mo., in August 2017. Photo via the Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY • The current governor is a city boy who billed himself as an outsider. The man positioned to take his place hails from a farm and is very much part of Missouri’s political establishment.

After Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted Thursday on a felony invasion of privacy charge, leaders in the Missouri House announced they would investigate the governor, possibly heading down the road to impeachment. If that occurs — or if Greitens resigns — the next governor of Missouri would be Mike Parson, a veteran and former rural county sheriff who began his career at the Capitol in 2005.

Former Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican who was appointed by Greitens to the Public Service Commission last month, said he sat next to Parson for two years when the two served in the House. In the Senate, Silvey often feuded with Greitens.

“He (Parson) has deep relationships in the Legislature,” Silvey said. “He understands the importance of getting along with people to move policy forward. I think it would be a night-and-day difference in how the state operates. I don’t think we would have senators standing on the Senate floor every day rattling off a list of complaints about Mike Parson and how he’s operating.”

Since Greitens admitted he had an affair and allegations surfaced that he took a semi-nude photo of the woman without her consent, Parson has not issued any statements.

And on Friday, a spokeswoman said he wouldn’t comment on the events.

During his time in office, Parson, 62, has backed looser gun regulations, has championed tax credits for ethanol and beef producers, and pushed for pro-business legal changes.

“He’s got a good outlook on what the economic development needs (of the state) are,” said Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff. “He’s a highly respected individual.”

Sen. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, served in the House with Parson. Parson now serves as president of the Senate, one of his few official duties as lieutenant governor.

“Aside from ideological differences, he seems like a pretty straightforward guy,” Hummel said.

Parson has split publicly with the governor on some issues. While Greitens banned people in his office from accepting lobbyist gifts, Parson was accepting gifts. Of the seven statewide officeholders last year, only Parson accepted freebies from lobbyists. He took almost $4,000, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.

Parson, who briefly ran for the state’s top spot during the 2016 election cycle before switching to the lieutenant governor’s race, also broke with Greitens over low-income housing tax credits.

After the governor’s appointees voted to end the program, which encourages development in poor neighborhoods and is backed by a politically powerful group of developers, Greitens declared “politics as usual” over. Parson disagreed with the move, saying it would hurt rural Missouri.

And, as Greitens was cutting spending across state government, Parson requested more money for his office, including for out-of-state travel.

Raised on a farm, Parson went to high school in Wheatland, a small town in southwest Missouri, according to his state biography. Now, he raises cattle.

In the Missouri House, he co-sponsored the legislation that enacted the “castle doctrine,” which has since been expanded, and supported a measure to limit who could sponsor ballot initiatives.

Parson is also close with the political firmament in Jefferson City.

He reported receiving thousands of dollars from former Speaker of the House Steven Tilley, who has been a lobbyist since 2012.

Parson also has accepted campaign contributions from Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and two other senators — Sens. Gary Romine of Farmington and Libla of Poplar Bluff — who are vocal opponents of Greitens.

Jack Suntrup of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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