JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Republicans learned Tuesday their control of Missouri's Senate next year might last only three weeks.
The three state senators who won higher office on election day resigned Tuesday, and Gov. Roger Wilson called for a Jan. 23 special election to replace them.
That means the GOP will hold a 16-15 edge when the legislature convenes on Jan. 3, but they could lose the advantage after the special election.
The resignations come while Senate Republicans and Democrats are determining their approaches to governing in a Senate where the long term partisan make-up is unclear.
During the early organizational days of the session, Republicans could select their own committee chairs and choose chamber leadership. But that tack could backfire after the vacancies are filled if Democrats retake the majority or if the Senate becomes tied.
The GOP's newly nominated leader, Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said the party is hoping to iron out a power-sharing agreement with Democrats in a meeting slated for next Tuesday.
"I think the people are looking for men and women of reason and goodwill and reasonableness," Kinder said. "That's what we're going to bring to this process rather than a hardline partisan agenda."
He said many power-sharing options will be on the table including co-chairing committees or equal party representation on each committee.
Sen. Ed Quick, D-Liberty, who leads the Senate Democrats, declined to comment on how the Democrats would approach next week's meeting.
Sens. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico, Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, and Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, gave Wilson letters of resignation Tuesday. Clay and Graves were elected to Congress and Maxwell is the lieutenant governor-elect.
Maxwell, if he had waited until the Jan. 8 swear-in date to resign, could have assured the Democrats at least a tie in the early days of the session. But he said he wanted to ensure that his seat would be filled as early as possible during the session.
"Clearly it would have been easy for me to stay to ensure a tie situation," he said. "I wanted to make sure the people I represent would endure only the shortest amount of time possible during the session without a senator."
Clay and Graves could not be reached for comment.
The party committees in the vacant senatorial districts will determine who will run in the special election. If the seats stay in the same party's hands, which is likely, the Senate will enter a 17-17 tie with a Democratic lieutenant governor, Maxwell.
The lieutenant governor can break some tie votes, but his nod cannot pass legislation. As Kinder said, "Nothing's going to pass that doesn't have consensus."