JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As the sun set on the first day of fall, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe officially launched his campaign for a full term in office, promising to continue to work for Missouri.
“It’s been a great honor to be your senator and serve you now as lieutenant governor,” Kehoe said at his campaign launch Monday evening. “I can tell you that dreams like this don’t happen often — especially for someone like me. I can’t tell you how humbling it’s been to go down this path.”
Specifically, Kehoe promised to remain committed to the state’s veterans, expand education opportunities for students, and advocate for anti-abortion causes. He also promised to push for tourism promotion and expand technology and agriculture for Missouri to be a leading state for food production.
“I want the same for you and your grandkids as the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with,” Kehoe said.
Work, as a matter of fact, was the catalyst behind Kehoe’s decision to run to remain in office.
“It’s all about work,” Kehoe told The Missouri Times, praising the campaign’s volunteers for their efforts as well. “That’s the secret to my success in life: surrounding myself with really good people who have great work ethic. And in this job, I intend to do the same thing.”
He promised to continue the “path for workforce development” opportunities, a priority of the current administration. He said although Missouri has a lower unemployment rate, the state should be focused on helping those who are underemployed.
Gov. Mike Parson — who kicked off his own campaign about two weeks ago — said he wanted to pick someone with a strong work ethic and similar morals when he was looking for his lieutenant governor. He said he warned Kehoe from the beginning he would need to “bring his work gloves” to the office.
“And he has not let me down on that,” Parson said, before praising the leadership of Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick.
About 400 people gathered at Memorial Park in Jefferson City with temperatures hovering just below 80 degrees — eating hamburgers and hotdogs and conversing over live bluegrass music.
So far, a Democrat has not yet filed to run against Kehoe — but Lauren Gepford, the executive director of the state’s Democratic Party teased during Sunday’s episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics that would be changing.
As for Kehoe’s run, Gepford told The Missouri Times Monday: “Republican leadership in Missouri has time and time again shown their willingness to push extremist legislation, legislation that is unpopular with Missourians. We look forward to having an elected [lieutenant governor] and are excited to field a strong candidate to run against the appointed Lt. Gov. Kehoe.”
“I’m sure we’re going to have an opponent but … I guarantee you no one is going to work as hard as our team is going to work,” Kehoe told The Missouri Times.
Kehoe had nearly $221,000 cash on hand as of the latest campaign finance filings. The
American Dream PAC, which supports Kehoe, more than $86,700 cash on hand.
A former state senator, Kehoe was elevated to Parson’s second-in-command in June 2018 — setting off a legal battle. Ultimately, the Missouri Supreme Court was left to determine Parson, who ascended to the governorship following the resignation of fellow Republican Eric Greitens, acted within his constitutional authority to make the appointment.
As Missouri’s No. 2 statewide official, he has focused on tourism, veterans, and promoting local businesses. He championed the #MissouriAdventure Challenge and Buy Missouri Week, headed the School Safety Task Force, and promoted tourism through a “flapjack tour.”
In fact, the food served at Kehoe’s campaign event was all produced in Missouri.
Kehoe assumed the role of acting governor in late June when Parson was on a personal vacation with the first lady. Then, he signed a few bills into law, including SB 275, a healthcare bill that changes how dentists can prescribe certain opioids to treat acute pain; SB 397, which extends the petition process for the creation of a museum or cultural district; and HB 612, a bill that transfers the Missouri State Council to the Arts to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.
Kehoe has lived all walks of life throughout the state: He was born and raised in St. Louis by a single mother with six children. He worked his way up from washing cars to sales management at a dealership in the city. And by 1992, Kehoe started a Ford-Lincoln auto dealership in Jefferson City.
His work in car sales put him on the path to farming. When he was 15 years old, Kehoe worked for a man who owned a Ford dealership in south St. Louis as well as a farm in Phelps County.
“When you worked for Mr. [Dave] Sinclair, you could be washing cars one day and the next you could be on his farm building a fence. And that’s just the way it went,” Kehoe previously told The Missouri Times. “I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the setting; I liked the farm life; I liked the ranch life.”
Kehoe started from scratch and now runs a cattle and hay farm, responsible for roughly 750 acres as a first-generation farmer.
Kehoe entered politics with an appointment to the state Highway and Transportation Commission which led to a state Senate run in 2010. While in the General Assembly, Kehoe held several leadership positions on various committees, as well as served as the majority floor leader.