JEFFERSON CITY — Historically, when a public official is facing impeachment, they can at least count on having their political party in their corner.
But those who support Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ impeachment include members of his own party.
“It seems to be rare for a legislature controlled by one party to consider impeachment proceedings against an executive officer of the same party,” said Justin Dyer, a political science professor at MU and the director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy.
For Republicans, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson would be an easier and more experienced lawmaker to work with, while Democrats might want Greitens to remain because of the friction between him and his own party, said Peverill Squire, an MU political science professor.
“I think the surprising thing about all the problems in which Gov. Greitens has found himself is that Republicans have not rallied to his defense,” Squire said.
“He ran against them, he has run ads against individual members, he’s done little more than sign a couple of their bills to make himself liked by his Republican colleagues in the General Assembly.”
A committee was formed in the Missouri House of Representatives to investigate Greitens after a grand jury indicted him on a felony charge for invasion of privacy.
The results of this investigation will determine whether the House will go forward with impeachment.
Squire said for many Republican lawmakers, if Parson were to take office, it would mean less drama and distractions and more focus on pushing their legislative agendas.
“Most Republicans in the General Assembly are disenchanted with Gov. Greitens,” Squire said.
A Republican “would much prefer a Gov. Parson simply because he’s a product of the General Assembly. He knows them, they know him, they understand each other better. I think members of the legislature would prefer a governor who worked with them and didn’t try to bully them.”
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, a vocal opponent of Greitens, said he would be much happier with Parson in office.
“I think he would be more open to working with the senators because he has a relationship with us and he has shown that he will actually talk to us,” Schaaf said.
“Whereas the governor, we never see him, we never hear from him, he won’t talk to us. I think (Parson) would be a breath of fresh air.”
As far as getting more bills through a legislative session, Schaaf said while the number of bills might not change, the quality would improve.
“I don’t know that more bills will be passed, but I do know better bills will be passed,” Schaaf said.
“Anytime you have open lines of communication, you’re going to make legislation that is better in many different ways.”
Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, however, said it’s too soon to know how Parson would lead. So far, he has been happy with the policies passed under Greitens, even if his methods for working with lawmakers are different.
“I know as lieutenant governor and as a senator, Parson has been very engaged in lots of conversations and would try to get both sides together,” Kehoe said.
“Whether that was two different Republicans or a Republican and a Democrat, he’d always try to work to try and get things to a common ground. That could be totally different as governor.”
While some lawmakers have questioned whether Greitens can focus on his responsibilities, Kehoe said he doesn’t know how it will effect the governor’s performance.
“It’s always troublesome when someone has a lot going on and can’t concentrate 100 percent on their job,” Kehoe said.
“But the guy is very successful and he’s been through a lot…so he might be able to multitask better than others.”
For Democrats, keeping Greitens around might be more beneficial for their agendas than Parson, Squire said.
“Democrats, from a political perspective, would probably prefer Greitens to continue to fight to stay in office just because it becomes a political issue and can work to their advantage,” Squire said.
“Democrats in the General Assembly have remarkably little leverage. In the House they have nothing to do with anything that happens, and in the Senate they can get overridden pretty easily.”
Squire said Democrats might calculate that things could be even easier for Republicans, who hold overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate, to work with a Gov. Parson rather than Greitens.
“I think almost every Republican off the record would tell you they would be much happier with Parson than with Greitens,” Squire said.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St Louis, said she wants Greitens to stay in office, but for a different reason.
“I come from a very liberal district. So people will say things such as, we really don’t like Trump, but Pence is worse,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “I was thinking about all of this, and I came to the conclusion that all the things Greitens has done are terrible, but Parson would be worse.”
One of the major issues facing Chappelle-Nadal’s district is the contaminated West Lake landfill. She believes Parson has been working against her on dealing with the landfill.
“I’m trying to save lives. What Greitens allegedly did is absolutely terrible, something he did before he was sworn into office, I can’t defend him on any of that,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “My decision is based on my district alone.”
For Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, it’s too early to speculate on whether Parson would be a better governor than Greitens. However, he said if it came to an impeachment vote, he would make his decision only on the results of the investigation currently being conducted by a House committee.
“If the articles of impeachment are filed and if the vote takes place, my vote would be based on the evidence brought forward from the investigation and it wouldn’t be based on what I think a Gov. Parson would mean for my district or the state for that matter,” Kendrick said. “It would be solely based on can Gov. Greitens continue to serve in office.”