Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has compiled a short list of successors in his home state of Kentucky, preparing for the possibility that he does not serve out his full term, Kentucky Republicans tell The Intercept.
The list is topped by his protégé, state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, and also includes former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft, whose billionaire coal magnate husband is a major McConnell donor, as well as Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams, a former McConnell Scholar.
Under current law, the power to appoint McConnell’s replacement falls to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. But new legislation McConnell is pushing in the Kentucky General Assembly would strip the governor of that power and put it into the hands of the state GOP.
McConnell’s scramble to secure his legacy comes as his position in the party he effectively built from the ground up is increasingly shaky. McConnell’s denunciation of former President Donald Trump — even as it was accompanied by a vote of acquittal and a pledge to endorse the former president in 2024 if he is the GOP nominee — has brought on calls for his censure by party leaders across the state. A candidate running in McConnell’s mold would face an uphill climb through a primary in the new Republican Party — unless, that is, the candidate has the benefit of incumbency.
The 79-year-old McConnell has held his Senate seat since 1985 and handily won a seventh term last November.
The new legislation, Senate Bill 228 — dubbed by some inside the state Legislature as the Daniel Cameron Election Bill — was filed on February 10, 2021, during the Kentucky General Assembly’s 30-day “short” session. The bill alters current state statute that allows the governor to appoint a replacement in the event of a vacancy to the U.S. Senate. If the bill becomes law, the appointment to fill a vacancy will be selected from a list of three names submitted by the state executive committee of the same political party as the senator who held the vacant seat. According to the bill, the appointee from that list will then serve until a successor has been elected by voters. The legislation goes on to list instructions on when elections take place in the event of a vacancy.