JEFFERSON CITY - As speculation grows that Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder might be leaving his post for a run at southeast Missouri's vacant Congressional seat, the state House endorsed a bill Tuesday that would require a statewide special election to fill his seat.
The House voted just hours before the resignation of Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson, which became effective just before midnight Tuesday. Gov. Jay Nixon has announced that the special election for her seat will be held June.
Kinder, one of about a dozen Republican candidates vying for the seat, was elected to his third term as Lt. Gov in November. Nixon, a Democrat, has said he has authority to appoint someone to fill the rest of Kinder's term if he leaves. But, Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, is sponsoring legislation that would allow the governor to appoint a temporary replacement, but would require a state vote to select a permanent replacement. On the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, said it's in Missouri's Constitution that the Governor has authority to appoint a replacement.
"The system allowing the Governor to appoint has been in effect since 1875," said Newman. "I think this is clearly a political statement."
Smith, who is also a candidate interested in Emerson's vacant Congressional seat, said it has nothing to do with the current race to replace Emerson.
"It wasn't just something that we woke up and decided because there happens to be a future election," said Smith.
Smith has filed similar legislation since 2009 that would require special elections if any statewide office is left vacant. The legislation would also bar the person the Governor appoints from running in the special election.
Several amendments were tacked on the bill Tuesday including one that would move back Missouri's presidential primary date from February to March.
Another amendment that would decrease the required percentage of votes to demand a recount from one percent of the difference to one-half percent was also added. However, Smith said he wouldn't hesitate to try to take those amendments off if they met opposition in the Senate.
"If I feel like there's any room that could cause the bill not to pass then I'll fight for it in the Senate to take it off," Smith told reporters after the House endorsed the bill.
The House is expected to have a final vote on the measure Wednesday and send it to the Senate.
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