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Senior Senator Down?

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Man falls down:

McConnell’s injury is the latest incident of a Senate member requiring hospital treatment. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, 89, was taken to hospital last week to be treated for shingles, with Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman, 53, who suffered a stroke during his campaign in 2022, currently being treated for clinical depression. “This evening, Leader McConnell tripped at a local hotel during a private dinner. He has been admitted to the hospital where he is receiving treatment,” David Popp, communications director for McConnell, said in a statement. No other details about McConnell’s fall have been released, including how long he is expected to remain in the hospital.

In national terms I’m not actually sure what it would mean for the GOP Senate minority to transition to a new leadership figure; it’s altogether possible that Biden would prefer an institutionalist like McConnell to whatever might emerge from the GOP Senate caucus. The Senate isn’t like the House so we probably wouldn’t see Hawley or Vance, but we also probably wouldn’t see Romney. Anyway, the real action would come if there’s a vacancy:

(a) The Governor shall fill vacancies in the office of United States Senator by appointment and the appointee shall serve until a successor has been elected and qualified under subsection (2), (3), (4), or (5) of this section.(b) The appointee shall be selected from a list of three (3) names submitted by the state executive committee of the same political party as the Senator who held the vacant seat to be filled, shall have been continuously registered as a member of that political party since December 31 of the preceding year, and shall be named within twenty-one (21) days from the date of the list submission

And:

(2) If a vacancy occurs more than three (3) months before the election in any year in which any regular election is held in this state, the remainder of the unexpired term shall be filled as follows:(a) Candidates for the unexpired term shall file petitions of nomination no later than the fourth Tuesday in August before the date of the scheduled regular election;

The next regular election is in November 2023. Now I could be reading all of this wrong, but if I’m not…

  1. In case of a vacancy the KY GOP would submit three names to Andy Beshear
  2. Beshear would choose one of those names to serve until the next regular election
  3. The November 2023 election would include both a governor’s race and a Senate race (McConnell’s term ends 2027).

And what makes this fascinating is that the top contenders for the Senate seat are also the announced candidates for the governor’s race. The game theory dynamics here are simply mind-boggling; who does the KY GOP nominate? Who does Beshear choose? Do any of the GOP gubernatorial candidates drop out in order to pursue the Senate seat? Do the losers in the May 2023 GOP primary decide to go for the Senate instead? But wait!

(b) Petitions shall meet the requirements established under KRS 118.315, except:1. The signatures of no more than one thousand (1,000) petitioners shall be required;2. The petition of nomination shall contain a selection where a candidate shall designate whether the political party affiliation, or lack of affiliation, shall be placed on the ballot with the name of the candidate; and3. The designation made under subparagraph 2. of this paragraph shall not be changed following the filing of the nomination papers;(c) The order of the names on the ballot for the candidates to be voted for shall be determined by lot at a public drawing to be held in the office of the Secretary of State at 2 p.m., prevailing time, on the Thursday following the last Tuesday in August;(d) After the order of names has been determined under paragraph (c) of this subsection, the Secretary of State shall certify to the county clerks:1. The name of each candidate; and2. The party affiliation, or lack of affiliation, of the candidate if designated for inclusion on the ballot as provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection;(e) All candidates qualifying to be placed on the ballot shall be listed in a separate column or columns, or in a separate line or lines, and in a manner so that the casting of a vote for all of the candidates of a political party will not operate to cast a vote for any candidate for a vacancy in the United States Senate. The words “Vote for one” shall be printed in the appropriate location;(f)1. No candidate shall be elected to fill a vacancy at any regular election held under this subsection unless the candidate receives a majority of the votes cast in the regular election;2. If no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a runoff election shall be held between the candidates receiving the two (2) highest numbers of votes cast in the regular election;3. If a runoff election is required as provided in this paragraph, it shall be held seventy (70) days after the date of the regular election at which the two (2) candidates were selected; and4. The candidate receiving the highest number of votes cast in the runoff election to fill the vacancy shall be the candidate elected to fill the unexpired term of the office of United States Senator;

So if I’m reading this right, the November 2023 election to fill McConnell’s seat would be a free-for-all including every rando from either party who could come up with 1000 signatures. In the (highly likely) event that no candidate received a majority, you’d have a run-off by January 2024. By that time Kentucky might or might not have a new Governor!

… again I could be misreading, but it seems like there’s latitude here for the GOP to delay submitting its list of replacements for Mitch until after the May gubernatorial primary. That would give the field a bit of time to sort itself out, and the GOP could choose between the chief losers/dropouts from the primary… which probably makes more sense than running the risk of having the gubernatorial candidate also be a sitting Senator down the electoral stretch.

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