It is still early in the game but it is not too early to ponder what will happen if Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder becomes Jo Ann Emerson’s replacement in Congress. We had written about this issue in a different perspective almost two years ago and Auditor Tom Schweich called it to our attention recently, suggesting we reprise that entry to address current circumstances. .
You can go back to the blogs of February 6 and February 17, 2010 if you must read the original stuff we’re going to re-tread for this entry.
We were reflecting in the first of those blogs on Rep. Jason Smith’s proposal requiring special elections to be held whenever there is a vacancy in statewide elected offices. It didn’t get passed but now the issue is warming up as Kinder evaluates whether he wants to contend for Emerson’s seat in the U. S. House or stick around as Lite Guv for a shot at the governorship in ’16.
Present state law says:
105.030. Whenever any vacancy, casued 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.
A layman’s reading of the law seems pretty clear. The governor cannot appoint a someone to fill Kinder’s position if he wins the right to seek greater glory inside the beltway. So fears that Nixon, a Democrat, would appoint a Democrat to fill Republican Kinder’s vacant position appear to be groundless–again, to a layman reading state statute.
The state constitution (Article four, Section 11(e) establishes a line of succession in the case the governor dies or is convicted, is impeached, or resigns. It establishes that the Senate President Pro Tem would succeed the Governor if there is no Lieutenant-Governor. For the next two years, that would be Republican Senator Tom Dempsey of St. Peters. And if personal or political misfortune befalls Dempsey, Speaker of the House Tim Jones would be next. He’s a Republican, too.
Governor Roger Wilson appointed Lieutenant Governor-elect Joe Maxwell to fill out the last 55 days of Wilson’s term when Wilson succeeded Mel Carnahan after the plane crash in 2000. Maxwell told us a couple of years ago he and his attorney had checked out the situation and were convinced he had served those few days legally before being sworn in for his full four-year term.
Kinder might make this entire discussion academic by deciding he can have more fun being Lieutenant Governor four more years than he could have by conquering Washington, D.C. But the issue is worth exploring as part of the process.
If he does bolt, an interesting scenario could develop. Governor Nixon could appoint someone to finish the term or he could leave the office vacant. The law does not require the Senate leader to quit his Senate job to become Lt. Governor. He apparently could continue in his Senate position unless the governor becomes non-functional in whatever way, thus triggering the succession law that would make the senate leader the governor. But the succession laws do not state that the President Pro Tem would fill the advocacy roles the Lieutenant Governor fills. Since Bill Phelps ran on the platform of being a “fulltime” Lt. Gov., the legislature has created things for that officer to do so he or she truly is ‘full time.”
If the Governor appoints someone, should he pick another Republican, Kinder’s party? Or should he pick someone from his own party who would capitalize on being a heartbeat away from the governorship in the next election to become Nixon’s successor? But if he does appoint someone, a lawsuit is likely challenging his power to do so under Chapter 105. If it turns out he could not, in fact, appoint someone, then his appointee would be thrown out of office and would wear a taint of some kind if that person runs for top bananna in ’16.
What is needed is a sacrificial lamb, someone to take Kinder’s place if he leaves. This person would need to be someone whose political future would not be harmed by being thrown out of office after being appointed illegally because he has no political ambitions to begin with. It would need to be someone without a party label so that future candidates for either party would not have the damage of being ousted from public office on his record when 2016 comes around. The person should be an independent and not a likely candidate for re-election. This person should be a place-holder whose main job would be to be the defendant in an ouster lawsuit.
One person springs quickly to mind who is tailor-made for that position. Independent with no future political ambitions. too old to have any even if he was inclined to have some. Someone willing to be the defendant, the sacrificial lamb who will cost neither party any points when he is thrown out of office by the state supreme court.
Moi. Und Ich. Or, as they say Italian, Me.”
Independent? After all these years as a reporter I’m not just about to declare a party preference.
Political ambitions? Not a one. I’d be all about service.
Willing to be thrown out of office? I’ve been asked to leave better places.
Able to do the job? Not a doubt in my mind. I’ve been watching Lt. Guvs since Tom Eagleton was one. Here are the duties:
Under the Constitution
Preside as President over the Senate, voting in the event of a tie vote. I’ve watched a lot of Senate Presidents call the place to order each morning, bang the gavel, introduce the chaplain, and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. I’m as good as any of them. In fact, I’m better at reciting the Pledge because I recite entire sentences instead of pausing after “allegiance” and “flag” and “Republic,” etc. Speaking entire sentences makes the pledge more meaningful. Voting in place of a tie? If the big Republican majority in the Senate is so divided that a vote on an issue is a tie, I’d be glad to cast a vote. I think I’d vote ‘present.” If your party is in a 2-1 majority and all you can do is get a tie vote, you deserve to have to start over.
Preside as Governor when the Governor is absent from the state or disabled. Of course I could. I can cut ribbons at new businesses or announce the creation of new jobs as well as Governor Nixon can. Heck, I’ve been reading scripts a lot longer than he has.
Upon the death, conviction, impeachment or resignation of the Governor, the Lt. Governor shall become governor for the remainder of the term. See above. Plus, I guarantee you, I would get more advice on how to the do the job than I could stand. Or maybe I would just resign as Lt. Governor and let the senate leader take the job after all–if he’d been nice to me on those days when I banged the gavel at the start of the session.
Under State law:
Member of the Board of Public Buildings. I love public buildings. Have been in several. Have written a book about one of them(another one is coming in a couple of years).
Member of the Board of Fund Commissioners and of the Missouri Development Finance Board. I’ve been on a lot of boards, have chaired several. My wife minds the checkbook so I’d bring her to meetings as an unpaid advisor and I’d have no problems. The latter board promotes economic development. I’m all for economic development.
Vice-Chairman of the Missouri Tourism Commission. I have been a tourist many times and am therefore eminently qualified for this position.
The state’s “elderly advocate” as head of the Office of Advocacy and Assistance for the Elderly. Unlike the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, I have experience BEING elderly. I have a long-term care insurance policy and I could direct staff to investigate complaints and I would gladly coordinate with the long-term ombudsman program. At the risk of sounding self-serving, these all are matters in which I have a deep personal interest and therefore would be an ideal person in this role. The same status would help in my additional role as Chairman of the Commission for the Missouri Senior RX Program.
Member of the Missouri Housing Development Commission. This commission spends money on domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, transitional housing, and other issues including home repairs for low-income homeowners. As I understand my New Testament, this is an almost Biblical obligation for all of us. Maybe it’s not “almost.”
Adviser to the education department on the Parent as Teachers Program. I’m a parent of two. As of this writing I am a grandparent of 1.6, which renders me more qualified than the incumbent. It’s a great program and I’m always full of advice–which qualifies me to fill the next prescribed role as advisor to the department on Early Childhood Education. That program helps parents stay home with their children. My mother stayed at home until I was in high school; my wife stayed at home until both kids were in classes. I have the background for this role.
Member of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health. I’m a member of the Jefferson City YMCA. I have a treadmill in my bedroom. If I was Lieutenant Governor I’d have the time to use both of them. I could use the office to become a poster boy for the council’s “before” and “after” promotions.
Chairman of the Missouri Community Service Commission. The commission encourages an ethic of service to all Missourians in numerous ways. A great man once wrote,”I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibilty, trustees of the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.” A former journalist would be an excellent member of that commission for as long as his sacrificial lambness lasts.
Co-Chair of the Personal Independence Commission. I anticipate being one of those elderly who insists on maintaining personal independence even if it drives my children crazy and I would expect to fulfill the role of examining existing programs and services and working to provide community-based treatment, facilities, communication and collaboration between state agencies. I might need all these things while in office.
Member of the Second State Capitol Commission, which was created in 2001 to raise money to underwrite the Capitol art book referred to above. It now has greater responsibilities for the care and upkeep of the building for which I have great affection. Most of the time. Late in the legislative session, after a string of all-night filibusters, however, I’m a little sick of the place.
Member of the Special Health, Psychological, and Social Needs of Minority Older Individuals Commission. Remember that I am not young and although I might need an oxygen tank to complete saying the name of this group, I know that age does not ignore demographic differences–which means this commission’s work on behalf of minority older individuals would be for me if I were a different color.
Member of the Statewide Safety Steering Committee. I believe in safe steering.
Chair of the Veterans Benefits Awareness Task Force. Not a veteran unless you count being a guidon bearer in University of Missouri Army ROTC parades on the quadrangle all those years ago in Columbia or being a cadet squadron commander for the Civil Air Patrol longer ago, in high school. But helping the grownups who did wear the uniforms of our country get the tributes due to them is a matter beyond honor, a debt those of us who have worn civilian clothes all our lives owe to those who served in the military
So now you know what the Lieutenant Governor does. This is what Peter Kinder would walk away from after eight years of serious work in these areas if he were to go to Washington. Pretty full agenda. But really, even a lamb could do it for a while.
And if the world should turn in such a way that this opportunity becomes possible, I assure you I would be “humbled” by those encouraging me to “express a strong desire” and give it “careful thought” and to “carefully consider” whether I could be the kind of “common sense” lamb that the state needs in this position.
See, it’s not just potential candidates for the southeast Missouri congressional seat that can talk the talk of potential. Potential lambs can speak the speak, too.
References available on request.