Election 2020: Who are the candidates running to be Missouri’s lieutenant governor?
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series offering primers on the candidates and issues on the November 2020 ballot.
If you’re voting this fall and you care about the direction of the state, don't ignore the race for lieutenant governor.
It rarely makes headlines, but when it does, it’s usually a big deal.
The lieutenant governor is first in line to succeed the governor if the latter dies, resigns or is otherwise removed from office, which has happened several times in state history and as recently as two years ago.
And even if they’re not needed in that capacity, they can play an important role presiding over the state Senate, where they vote to break ties, as the advocate for Missouri’s seniors and veterans, and on state boards that deal with tourism, low-income housing and state debt.
Kehoe, a Republican, is the incumbent and was appointed to the job in the aftermath of former Gov. Eric Greitens' resignation in 2018.
The 58-year-old was a state senator from Jefferson City before his appointment, and he ran a Ford dealership in the capital city before entering politics.
In interviews, public comments and a campaign advertisement, Kehoe has pitched himself as a tireless advocate for business and economic growth sorely needed as the state tries to recover from the virus.
As proof, he’s cited his work as a senator supporting tax cuts, deregulation and efforts to make courts more business-friendly as well as increased funding for K-12 education. He's also pointed out he continued that statehouse work in his new job.
In his first legislative session as lieutenant governor, he successfully lobbied for a bill aimed at boosting tourism by barring schools from starting earlier than 14 days before Labor Day.
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Kehoe also regularly touts his work on Buy Missouri, a program that promotes Missouri-made products, as well as his role as the state's veterans advocate.
In an interview last year, for example, he said he was proud to play a “small part” in a leadership transition at the Missouri Veterans Commission, which had come under scrutiny from the office under Gov. Mike Parson.
(The commission has also been scrutinized following a rash of COVID-19 deaths at its facilities; Parson ordered a review earlier this month.)
Kehoe has also highlighted his working-class upbringing in St. Louis with a single mother and five siblings
“I’ve learned your beginnings — no matter how humble, do not determine the course of your life,” he said when he announced his run. “I’ve seen it in my own life — and it’s why I’ll always fight to remove obstacles and create opportunities for our fellow Missourians.”
Alissia Canady, 41, is the Democratic challenger in the race.
She previously served on the City Council of Kansas City following work as an assistant prosecutor in Jackson County and an administrative hearing officer for the state.
She pitches her candidacy as an opportunity for voters to choose a “champion” on issues like health care access, affordable housing and the troubling rise in gun violence in Missouri cities this year.
And while she acknowledged she would have limited formal power to make policy, she said that wouldn’t stop her from working alongside lawmakers to solve big problems.
“And I think the lieutenant governor is well-positioned to be a leader in those types of conversations,” she said.
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Canady said she would also be a more reliable advocate for working-class people than Kehoe is, saying that while he may have come from humble beginnings, as a senator he pushed to cut unemployment benefits.
"That doesn't look like somebody that's trying to help someone who needs a hand up,” she said.
By contrast, Canady said her work “has been that of empowering advocacy, whether for victims as a prosecutor or for neighborhoods and small businesses on the City Council.”
Also on the ballot is Green Party candidate Kelley Dragoo, whose priorities include a Medicare for All program and building a public transit system that could "potentially" run throughout the entire state.
Libertarian Bill Slantz of St. Charles is another option; he thinks the office should be abolished.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.