Kentucky Legislature Passes Law to Restrict Governor’s Ability to Fill Senate Vacancies

On Thursday, the Kentucky state legislature passed a bill that would alter the manner in which vacant U.S. Senate seats are filled, removing the governor’s ability to appoint a replacement and instead setting up a special election procedure to fill any vacancies.

According to Politico, the bill was introduced by Republicans but passed with bipartisan support, receiving large enough majorities that a veto by Governor Andy Beshear (D-Ky.) would most likely be overridden by the legislature. The legislation dictates that a list of three names will be submitted to the governor by the outgoing senator’s party, and that the governor must appoint one of those three names to hold the seat until a special election should take place. Both of Kentucky’s senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, are Republicans.

McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, announced last month that he will step down as the leader of the Senate GOP later this year, but has said that he will serve the remainder of his Senate term, which expires in 2027. He has not yet confirmed whether or not he will run for re-election in 2026; he is currently serving his seventh term in office. There have been doubts about his political future, as the 82-year-old McConnell has had several health scares in recent months, including several instances of suddenly freezing up during public appearances.

The new legislation significantly curbs Beshear’s power, preventing him from appointing a Democrat to fill the seat in the event of a sudden vacancy. Beshear released a statement condemning the bill, claiming that it “improperly and unconstitutionally restricts the governor’s power.”

Beshear previously denounced the bill before its passage as “rank partisanship,” adding “we don’t want a candidate or a general assembly that just sees Team R or Team D or red or blue. We want good government that focuses on our people.”

Although Kentucky is an overwhelmingly Republican state, consistently voting for Republicans for the Senate and in presidential elections, Beshear managed to narrowly win his initial election for governor in 2019, as well as his re-election in 2023.

Get the news corporate media won't tell you.

Get caught up on today's must read stores!

By submitting your information, you agree to receive exclusive AG+ content, including special promotions, and agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms. By providing your phone number and checking the box to opt in, you are consenting to receive recurring SMS/MMS messages, including automated texts, to that number from my short code. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to end. SMS opt-in will not be sold, rented, or shared.

About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 26: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives to a news conference after a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans U.S. Capitol 26, 2023 in Washington, DC. McConnell froze and stopped talking at the microphone and was escorted back to his office. He later returned to the news conference and answered questions. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)