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Gov. Mike Parson picks his general counsel to replace Eric Schmitt as Missouri attorney general

 Gov. Mike Parson addresses the House chamber in January at the state Capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson addresses the House chamber in January at the state Capitol in Jefferson City.

A top staff member in the governor’s office will be Missouri’s next attorney general.

Andrew Bailey, who has served as general counsel for Gov. Mike Parson for the last year, will replace Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who was elected to the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

Bailey will complete Schmitt’s term, which ends in 2024.

Parson made the announcement Wednesday morning before the Thanksgiving weekend.

According to the governor’s office, Bailey has roughly eight years of professional experience as an attorney, including stints working as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Warren County and as an assistant attorney general. His previous jobs in the Parson administration were as deputy general counsel for the governor and general counsel for the Missouri Department of Corrections.

He’s never held elected office.

Bailey has been Parson’s top choice for the job all along. But his appointment has not been greeted by universal support among Republicans.

On Tuesday, Jackson County Republican Chairman Mark Anthony Jones sent a letter to the governor on behalf of his organization begging Parson not to appoint Bailey.

“PLEASE DO NOT appoint Andrew Bailey as Attorney General for Missouri!!” the letter said. “He has little experience in the attorney general’s office, and what he has is from Democrat Chris Koster’s office. He has only been an attorney for eight years. There MUST be other choices.”

The governor spoke with other potential candidates — former U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison, Cole County Judge Chris Limbaugh, former state Sen. Kurt Schaefer and state Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer —but never wavered from Bailey.

Parson said one of his top considerations on who to appoint was stability in the office that has seen the last two incumbents leave for higher office.

“Stability was critical when considering the next attorney general,” Parson said.

In the weeks leading up to the announcement, The Independent and other media have filed requests under Missouri’s Sunshine Law for access to records documenting internal discussions with Bailey about the appointment. The office has said the records may not be turned over until January, after the new attorney general will already be sworn into office.

Kelli Jones, Parson’s taxpayer-funded spokeswoman, has ignored inquiries about the records requests and whether the governor would consider expediting the release of those records.

During his tenure with Parson, Bailey has kept a relatively low public profile.

His closest brush with headlines came after records revealed he helped craft talking points the governor’s office used to advocate for the criminal prosecution of a journalist who uncovered a security problem in a state website.

The reporter uncovered a security flaw in a state website that left more than 500,000 teacher Social Security numbers exposed. Parson accused the reporter of being a hacker. Bailey helped come up with the governor’s argument that the reporter engaged in illegal hacking because he took “eight separate steps” to get the Social Security numbers.

According to Bloomberg News, one of the eight steps included opening a new tab in Google Chrome.

That effort by the governor’s office was widely panned, and a 158-page investigative file produced by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Cole County prosecutor showed no evidence of anything that even resembled computer hacking.

Bailey’s appointment marks the second time Parson has selected a new attorney general.

Schmitt got the job in 2018, after then-Attorney General Josh Hawley was elected to the Senate.

Few Missouri governors have had the opportunity and responsibility to appoint an attorney general on the behalf of the people of Missouri once,” Parson said, let alone twice.”

Parson will also have to pick a new state treasurer. Scott Fitzpatrick, who was appointed treasurer in 2018 and elected to a full term in 2020, won the race for state auditor.

This story was originally published on the Missouri Independent.

Copyright 2022 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Jason Hancock