Kentucky Governor Won’t Commit to Appointing a Republican if Mitch McConnell Resigns

After Kentucky Senator Mitch “The Glitch” McConnell had a second episode of freezing up mid-sentence, Governor Andy Beshear is declining to commit to appointing a Republican replacement if McConnell resigns.

Beshear essentially sidestepped the issue by saying, “There is no Senate vacancy. Senator McConnell has said he’s going to serve out his term, and I believe him, so I’m not going to speculate about something that hasn’t happened and isn’t going to happen.”

While the question is hypothetical, the question at the root of the matter is whether the Democrat Beshear might challenge a 2021 Kentucky law passed by the Republican legislature that requires the governor to appoint one of three candidates selected by the political party of the departing senator. A special election to appoint a permanent replacement would then be held, with the timing depending upon the vacancy.

Beshear vetoed that bill two years ago, but the legislature was able to override it.

Beshear argued that the bill violated provisions of both the state and U.S. Constitution — leading to speculation he may legally challenge or defy it should a vacancy occur.

In his veto message, Beshear said the law violates the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gives voters the right to directly cast ballots for senators, rather than state legislatures filling the seats. The amendment also says a state legislature can empower a governor to temporarily fill a vacancy until an election can be held.“

“The bill therefore upends a century of precedent by delegating the power to select the representative of all Kentuckians to an unelected, unaccountable committee of an organization that represents only a fraction of Kentuckians.”

USA Today

Beshear took office in 2019, and is facing re-election in November 2023. His Republican opponent is a former McConnell protégé, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. Cameron has also been mentioned as a possible replacement for McConnell in the event he retires.

A statewide poll from July shows Beshear leading Cameron by ten points.

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