By John Celock
Culminating a political career that shook up Missouri politics and ended in a series of scandals, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) announced Tuesday that he is resigning on June 1.
Greitens’ announcement comes after five months of scandals and indictments have plagued the former Navy SEAL and brought Missouri politics to a standstill. Greitens has faced an indictment on charges that he secretly took a nude photograph of a woman he was having an affair with and threatened to blackmail her with it, along with an indictment that he illegally used donor lists from his charity for his gubernatorial campaign. Greitens, who had been cleared of his first indictment and was facing a potential reindictment, was also facing impeachment proceedings in the Missouri Legislature.
Lt. Gov. Mike Parsons (R) takes office as governor on Friday to complete the remaining two and a half years on Greitens’ term.
Greitens said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Jefferson City that he was stepping down to spare his family any more scrutiny from the charges against him. Greitens continued to deny the charges he has been faced with.
Greitens saw his indictment on the photography charge dismissed earlier this month following questions on evidence and Greitens pushing for the St. Louis County prosecutor to take the stand on the charges. A special prosecutor has been named in the case and is considered likely to refile the indictment.
Earlier this year, a report from a legislative committee investigating Greitens found the governor’s accuser “credible” and detailed allegations against the governor that included sexual assault accusations. Greitens has denied the charges in the report.
The report led to lawmakers to begin impeachment proceedings against the first term Republican, with lawmakers convening an impeachment committee last week in a special session devoted to the subject.
Greitens stormed on to the political scene in 2016 with a gubernatorial campaign that followed his gaining international acclaim as an author, charity leader and motivational speaker, built upon his time as a Navy SEAL and a Rhodes Scholar. Greitens defeated several more established Republicans in the primary then Attorney General Chris Koster (D), in the general election, to capture the governor’s mansion.
Greitens’ tenure in Jefferson City was seen as a prelude to a future presidential bid, with the governor having registered domain names for a potential presidential campaign before he had launched his gubernatorial bid.
Greitens’ time in Jefferson City was marked by battles with political establishment leaders in the capital, who had never formed a close relationship with the governor.
Greitens will be succeeded by a lieutenant governor who is his opposite in many ways. Parson is a long time Jefferson City insider, who is known for forging alliances in the Legislature. A former county sheriff, Parson served in both the state House and state Senate prior to his 2016 election as lieutenant governor.
Parson, who was elected independently from Greitens, has never been close to the outgoing governor, focusing largely on his prescribed duties in presiding over the state Senate and chairing several state boards.
Parson is the first Missouri lieutenant governor to succeed to the governorship since Democrat Roger Wilson succeeded Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) in 2000 following Carnahan’s death in a plane crash. Wilson completed the remaining two and a half months of Carnahan’s term.