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Will Parson schedule special elections to fill two House vacancies? His office won’t say

Last day of the Missouri Legislature’s 2021 regular session

Missouri House lawmakers applaud Speaker Rob Vescovo on the House floor on Friday, May 14, 2021, on the final day of the current legislative session at the capitol building in Jefferson City. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

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JEFFERSON CITY — Two districts in the Missouri House covering competitive political turf may go without representation until after the November 2022 elections.

Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, is not committing to a special election to fill vacancies in the 34th and 65th House districts, which cover parts of the Kansas City and St. Louis-area suburbs, respectively.

The state constitution gives the governor authority to call special elections for legislative vacancies.

“There is no current timeline on a decision to be made on calling a potential special election for the vacant House of Representative districts,” said Kelli Jones, spokeswoman for Parson, in an email on Monday.

The special elections would be to replace state Rep. Tom Hannegan, R-St. Charles, who died last month of a stroke, and state Rep. Rick Roeber, whom the House expelled in April after his now-adult children testified he abused them as minors.

Democrats targeted both districts in the November 2020 election.

Hannegan beat former state Rep. Bill Otto by roughly 1,600 votes last year, a winning margin of 8%. Hannegan won by a 2% margin in 2018, clinging on to his seat by 315 votes.

Roeber narrowly won election last year despite news reports on his children’s abuse claims. He clinched the eastern Jackson County seat by 301 votes out of 21,329 cast.

With President Joe Biden’s approval rating dipping, the environment for Democrats in Missouri may not be favorable enough to pull off a win in either suburban House seat.

House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, did not respond to a question about whether he believes the vacancies should be filled before the November 2022 elections.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said “that’s too bad” when told Parson wasn’t committing to a special election, adding that if one were held in February the replacements could serve for much of the legislative session.

He said “without a doubt those are competitive districts” and suggested the party’s chances of winning the seats could improve in a special election.

Republicans would still hold commanding majorities even if they lost both contests. The party holds a 112-49 majority in the House.

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