Kentucky Republicans Push Bill to Sideline Democratic Governor in Senate Vacancies

Kentucky Republicans Push Bill to Sideline Democratic Governor in Senate Vacancies

A plan that would have prevented Kentucky’s Democratic governor from selecting a candidate to fill a U.S. Senate seat in the event that the 82-year-old Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s home state had a vacancy was finally approved by lawmakers on Thursday.

Any Senate vacancy from the Bluegrass State will be filled by a special election, according to the legislation. For the balance of the unexpired term, the winner of the special election would retain the seat.

As he introduced the idea to his colleagues, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers stated, “So it would be a direct voice of the people determining how the vacancy is filled.”

Following a brief debate, the state Senate voted 34–3 to submit the bill to Governor Andy Beshear. When lawmakers reassemble for the final two days of this year’s session in mid-April, they have the ability to override a veto notwithstanding the governor’s criticism that the proposal is motivated by partisanship.

Republican House Majority Floor Leader Steven Rudy is the main sponsor of the bill. He claims that the proposal has nothing to do with McConnell and is merely a reflection of his long-standing political beliefs about the best way to fill an open Senate seat.

Rudy calls Senator McConnell a “great friend and a political mentor,” and he acknowledges that the senior senator from the state was crucial to the Republican Party’s ascent to power in the Kentucky legislature.

According to Rudy, his plan would fill a vacancy in the Senate by conducting a special election, just like it would a vacancy in a Kentucky congressman or legislative seat. The bill has an emergency provision, which means that if it were passed into law, it would go into force right away.

The plan was presented by Rudy in February, and a House committee approved it the day after McConnell announced that he would be leaving his long-standing role as Senate leader in November. The choice sparked a flurry of conjecture on his seat’s destiny in his native Kentucky.

McConnell hinted at the prospect of running for office again in 2026 during his statement from the Senate floor, saying, “I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.”

McConnell’s statement, according to Aides, had nothing to do with his health. The senator suffered two public incidents where his face momentarily froze during his speech, in addition to a concussion from a fall he took last year.

Since former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of crimes including attempting to sell an appointment to Barack Obama’s former Senate seat, Rudy has stated that he had discussed altering the process for filling vacancies in the Senate for more than ten years. Illinois is bordered by Rudy’s district in far western Kentucky.

Beshear, who defeated a McConnell ally in a resounding victory last November, had already seen GOP lawmakers significantly reduce his power in choosing a senator.

The governor’s unilateral authority to temporarily fill a Senate seat was eliminated by the legislature in 2021. This bill restricts a governor’s options to a list of three senators nominated by party leaders who share the previous senator’s seat.

The two U.S. senators from Kentucky are Republicans. After GOP lawmakers overrode Beshear’s veto, the proposal became law.