“I’m not going anywhere” is how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) responded after Kentucky’s legislature passed a law that he supported requiring an appointment to a Kentucky Senate seat vacancy be from the same political party as the lawmaker who is departing.
Because McConnell supported the measure, it drew speculation that the 79-year-old senator, who has been in office since the early 1980s, would leave early.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a vacancy,” he told reporters in Kentucky on Tuesday, according to The Hill. “I just got elected to a six-year term. And I’m still the leader of my party in the Senate,” McConnell said.
“But I had watched this over the years in the Senate as various vacancies were filled and I thought this was the best way to go,” he said.
On Monday, the Kentucky legislature overcame a veto from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear on the legislation that requires the governor to temporarily fill a Senate seat with a member of the same party.
According to a description of the bill from the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky’s governor has been able to choose anyone from any political party to temporarily fill a seat. The measure also forces a governor to select a person from a list of three names that is provided by the party’s executive committee.
Amid the speculation, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican, said that McConnell “is not leaving” the upper chamber and is “not sick.” McConnell, meanwhile, told reporters Tuesday that he would support the bill even if Kentucky had a GOP governor.
“I can assure you … I would have supported this had the governor been Matt Bevin,” he said, referring to the previous governor, a Republican.
“The goal here, that I support … was if such a vacancy were to occur to have the people as quickly as possible elect the new senator. And in the interim, honor the results of the last election,” McConnell added.
Last fall, McConnell was forced to respond to photos of him showing his hands bruised and bandaged.
“I can just tell you that I’m just fine. And I can’t believe y’all have played with that all week long,” McConnell told the Washington Post at the time. “Did you watch any of my speeches? Are you familiar? I am just fine,” he also said.
Kentucky has not had a Democratic senator since 1999 when then-Sen. Wendell Hampton Ford, who spent more than 24 years in the Senate, left office.