Missouri House tries to Straighten Out Presidential Primary as It Passes 1st Bill, With “Kinder Clause”



The Missouri House has passed an elections bill aimed at straightening out the confusing process surrounding the Missouri Presidential primary system.
The Associated Press reports the plan, to move the state’s Presidential primary back from February into March, is aimed at making the state more relevant in the 2016 nominating contest.
The February/March Missouri 2012 primary and caucuses were confusing and unsatisfactory to many participants, especially in the then-contested GOP primary campaign
“The national Republican Party had warned that states holding their contests too early would lose half their delegates to the party’s national convention – a penalty intended to avoid a scramble among states to be near the front of the presidential nominating line. Missouri lawmakers sought to comply and delay the primary, but a bill that included the change was vetoed by Nixon for unrelated reasons. A second effort then bogged down during a contentious 2011 special legislative session.
Seeking to avoid the penalties, the Missouri Republican Central Committee opted to make the primary nonbinding and instead hold spring caucuses to allot delegates. However, state law still required the primary to be held. The nonbinding primary attracted few voters and was won by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
The report says The election legislation, approved 115-45, was the first bill passed by a House chamber that now is controlled by a Republican supermajority. The bill now goes to the state Senate, where Republicans also hold a two-thirds majority.
The main thrust of the measure, however, does not deal with the state’s primary system.
Instead, it focuses on the gubernatorial powers to replace a member of the Executive Branch. It is being driven by the potential that GOP Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder could be selected as the Republican nominee for the southeast Missouri (Mo-8) Congressional seat. Jo Ann Emerson retired earlier this week to become a lobbyist.
Under the bill, the governor could appoint an acting officeholder to fill a midterm vacancy as lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor or U.S. senator. The office then would appear on the statewide ballot during the next general election. Supporters said the bill would prohibit the acting officeholder from immediately running for that position to mitigate the advantages of incumbency.
Missouri law currently allows the governor to appoint a replacement as secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor or U.S. senator. But there has been uncertainty about how to fill an opening for lieutenant governor. Clarifying that process has gained new importance with newly re-elected Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder among the candidates competing for the GOP nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who resigned from Congress on Tuesday.
If Kinder wins the southeastern Missouri congressional seat, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon has claimed the authority to appoint a replacement while citing history. House Speaker Tim Jones has said he believes a special election is required. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey has called the situation “unclear” but says he does not believe the governor can appoint the lieutenant governor.
The elections legislation is sponsored by Rep. Jason Smith, who also is seeking Emerson’s seat in Congress. Smith, R-Salem, has sponsored similar legislation previously and said that requiring the election of statewide officials would “give the power back to the people of Missouri.”

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