Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt will be the state’s new attorney general, Gov. Mike Parson announced at a Tuesday morning news conference.
Schmitt, a Republican, will replace Josh Hawley, who was elected to the U.S. Senate on Nov. 6. Parson said Hawley has already submitted his resignation, effective when his six-year Senate term begins Jan. 3.
Hawley defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. He served two years as attorney general, and Schmitt will fill the remainder of his four-year term.
Schmitt’s appointment marks the second by Parson to fill an office typically elected by the people. Parson, who replaced Eric Greitens as governor after Greitens resigned in June, appointed Mike Kehoe to replace himself as lieutenant governor.
Now Parson will need to appoint a new state treasurer. He declined to comment Tuesday on whom he’s considering for that job but said he has already begun the search process.
Once that appointment takes place, four of the six top offices in state government will be filled by people who were not elected to those positions. State Auditor Nicole Galloway also was appointed to her job but won election last week to a four-year term that also will begin in January.
Schmitt has served as the state’s treasurer since 2017. Before that, he served in the Missouri Senate from 2009 to 2017 and served as an alderman for the city of Glendale, where he currently resides with his wife and three children. He said he plans to move to Jefferson City when he takes office as attorney general.
Schmitt has two daughters, Sophia and Olivia, and a nonverbal son named Stephen, who has epilepsy and a genetic condition causing tumors on his organs, according to Schmitt’s website.
Schmitt said Stephen inspired him to be a public servant to have a “greater impact,” he said Tuesday. He has supported numerous initiatives in favor of citizens with disabilities in his career. Notably, in 2015, Schmitt sponsored legislation to begin a Missouri ABLE board, which enacted a statewide ABLE program in 2017.
The program allows people with disabilities to create savings accounts, untaxed by the state and federal government, to pay for expenses incurred by their disability, according to previous Missourian reporting.
In his appointment speech, Schmitt said he plans to be a lawyer for all Missouri citizens, “including the guy riding the big red working his tail off and the waitress working two jobs to make ends meet.”
He said he comes from a working-class neighborhood, where he saw how hard his father and his friends’ parents had to work in pursuit of the “American dream.”
“I realized at a young age what was central to our family and our community living the American dream was the American ideal and our system of limited government,” he said.
Another accomplishment he mentioned Tuesday was Senate Bill 5, which he sponsored. The 2015 bill, centered around municipal court reform, came after protests brought to light racial disparities in policing and assessing court fines in Ferguson, according to previous Missourian reporting. The bill restricts the amount of money cities and towns can receive from fines for small traffic violations.
A U.S. Department of Justice report found the Ferguson Police Department was using these fines for “maximizing revenue” rather than administering justice. In his speech, Schmitt called these practices “abusive revenue generating schemes.”
As state treasurer, this year Schmitt created a data transparency portal called “ShowMe Checkbook,” which allows the members of the public to sort through government expenditures, revenue and cash flow, for example, on their own.
In 2017, he supported a federal tax reform proposal that would cut more than $1 billion from the state budget. He said it would help small businesses and middle-class citizens, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The purpose of the Missouri Attorney General is to serve as the chief legal officer of the state. The office provides legal advice to most state agencies and defends or represents the state in lawsuits.
On Oct. 26, Hawley filed federal charges against Gasconade County Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew A. Hutchings for sexually assaulting a woman in her own home while on duty.
Hawley also recently launched an independent review of the Archdiocese of St. Louis regarding allegations of sex abuse by members of the clergy.