Jefferson City, MO – Increasingly the leading issue in who will replace Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson isn’t questions surrounding which Republican will be selected by the 8th district committee, but whether or not the leading candidate in the field, Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder will be able to seek the nomination or be forced to keep his current post to avoid allowing Governor Nixon to appoint his successor. That successor would presumably be a Democrat.
Kinder has the deepest roots in the 8th congressional district of any candidate being mentioned. He was the campaign manager in Bill Emerson’s first campaign in 1980, his father was a well-respected doctor in Cape Girardeau, he served as the senator for the 27th district, and on the staff of Gary Rust of Rust Communications who owns the majority of the newspapers in the district. Kinder also carried 29 of the 30 counties in the 8th congressional district in his 2012 re-election, losing only Ste. Genevieve County by less than 2%.
Initially some felt that Kinder would forgo having his name placed into consideration in order to run for Governor in 2016. Kinder has been the only Republican in the state to win election and re-election to statewide office in the past ten years. He would be the early favorite to win the Republican nomination for Governor, an office that he has long been rumored to covet.
However, the day after Emerson announced her retirement Kinder released a statement seemingly stating his intention to have his name put into consideration by the committee. The decision will be made by the 8th district congressional committee who will meet approximately a month after the governor signs a writ of special election.
Whether or not that meeting is a coronation for Kinder or donnybrook with candidates ranging the spectrum from well respected elected officials such as Representative Jason Smith and Senator Kevin Engler to political hacks like former staffer Loyd Smith depends largely on whether the committee members feel that Kinder would be replaced as Lt. Governor by a Nixon appointee or by a special election.
Precedent may be the side of a gubernatorial appointment. As recently as 2000 there was a vacancy in the Lt. Governor’s when Roger Wilson became Governor after Governor Carnahan’s death. Wilson appointed Maxwell after his victory in November to the office and there was no formal complaint by Republicans who viewed it as a formality as Maxwell was set to enter the office two months later.
“It was my understanding that the Governor’s office had researched it and that it was appropriate action to take”, said former Lt. Governor Joe Maxwell who was appointed to the position the last time the office was vacant in 2000.
“It made sense at the time, and to the best of my knowledge the appropriate was to fill the vacancy would be by having the Governor appoint someone until the next election”, said Maxwell.
While Maxwell was appointed to the office, in 1903 John Adams Lee resigned the office and the President Pro Tem of the Senate Thomas Lewis Rubey assumed the duties of the office for about two years until the inauguration of John McKinley.
A source close to the Governor explained that Nixon was likely to continue the precedent of his predecessor and appoint a qualified Missourian to the post keeping with the precedent set in 2000, and if the appointment is challenged in court would abide by the court’s ruling. The uncertainly as to the constitutionality of the appointment would serve to make a rumored appointment of State Treasurer Clint Zweifel risky.
While recent precedent may be on the side of an appointment some argue that the law does not give the Governor the power to appoint a Lt. Governor. Article IV of the state constitution provides that “the Governor shall fill all vacancies in public offices unless otherwise provided by law”.
However, Missouri statute 105.030 states that, “Whenever any vacancy, caused in any manner or by any means whatsoever, occurs or exists in any state or county office originally filled by election of the people, other than the offices of lieutenant governor state senator or representative, sheriff, or recorder of deeds in the city of St. Louis, the vacancy shall be filled by appointment by the governor”.
Bob Priddy with Missouri.net and a senior Missouri capitol historian wrote an article on the ambiguity of the situation after Representative Jason Smith of Salem introduced a bill to require a special election to fill the vacancy. Former Governor Wilson told Priddy: “That is amazing. That means my counsel, the entire legislature, legislative research—everybody in state government missed it.”
Last week it was mentioned by capitol analyst Dave Drebes of the Missouri Scout that it was possible that the legislature could pass a bill requiring a special election to fill any Lt. Governor vacancy. To be in effect for this situation it would require an emergency clause being attached to the bill requiring a super majority. Several sources we spoke with including two who are interested in receiving the nomination themselves said this was unlikely.
The nomination process seems stalled until the issue of the Lt. Governor vacancy is settled, but as of 3:50 on Thursday the Attorney General’s Office had not received any request for an official opinion on the matter. According to state law any member of the General Assembly, the Governor, Secretary of State, Auditor, Treasurer, Commissioner of Education, Grain Warehouse Commissioner, Director of any state department, or any Circuit Prosecuting Attorney may request an opinion relative to their respective offices or in the discharge of their duties.
With speculation rife that the Lt. Governor’s office could be come vacant some are speculating on who would fill that post. Assuming a special election is called each parties state committees would meet and select nominees to run in a special election.
Zweifel is barred form seeking re-election as State Treasurer by term limits on the office. He is heavily rumored to be on path for a primary collision with Attorney General Chris Koster of the 2016 Democratic nomination for Governor. Winning this office would alleviate the Democrats primary concerns.
Former State Senator Victor Callahan
The Kansas City democrat is a prolific fundraiser with nearly three quarters of a million dollars in the bank to mount a campaign. He has connections throughout the state from his time as the senate minority leader. Many feel that his biggest campaign is in front of him.
Former State Auditor Susan Montee
Montee lost the 2012 general election to Kinder, but with her statewide win behind her she would be a formidable candidate with built in name identification.
State Representative Sara Lampe
Lampe, who was one of the only democratic state representatives from southwest Missouri ran for Lt. Governor in 2012 but lost to Montee. She had a hard time in the primary because her home area has very few democratic primary votes. However, the democratic state committee might like to have a statewide official from Greene County.
State Senator Eric Schmidt
Schmidt is seen as a rising star in the party, and was likely to be a candidate in 2016 for the seat. Fellow St. Louis County Republican senator John Lamping remarked to the SEMO TIMES, “Senator Schmidt is an outstanding legislator, and the state is better if he continues in public office”.
State Senator Kurt Schaefer
Schaefer has been rumored to be a candidate for Attorney General in 2016, but is a proven fundraiser and would have the ability to raise the funds necessary to compete in a special election. Schaefer is also the only person to raise a million dollars for a state senate campaign.
Former Speaker of the House Catherine Hannaway
There are several stories circulating St. Louis and Jefferson City that Hannaway is looking to get back into elective politics. Her immense connections on the state committee and fundraising ability would make her an top choice.
State Senator Ron Richard
Senator Richard was recently chosen as the incoming Senate Majority Leader and would be able to raise a great deal of money. His election to Senate leadership was organized by Senator Lamping who has also spoke of a desire to build a better bench for statewide elections. This could be a logical place to start. When contacted for this story Richard commented, “It’s very early to think about this but of course its interesting and always flattering to be talked about”.
State Senator Brad Lager
Lager lost a primary to Kinder in 2012, and would have significance name identification from his two previous runs for statewide office. Further Lager would likely have the support of the influential Jeff Roe as well as his large donors from his last race.
There is sure to be more contenders surface should the office become vacant, and the best advice given may be from former Lt. Governor Maxwell who advised anyone interested in the office to, “Obtain an opinion from a qualified election law attorney with a good reputation”.