Fresh Off The Grill

Stepping Away From Slates

Kentucky’s second in command, the Lieutenant Governor, AKA a warm body in the event of disaster, has been elected in a pairing or slate alongside the governor since 1995, but this upcoming gubernatorial election that is about to change. 

Newly enacted legislation will effectively change the gubernatorial primary process. The net effect is yet to be fully seen, but it’s very possible that Kentuckians will see slates formed pre-primary, some will run alone in serious campaigns, other will vie to compete for the second slot of lieutenant governor. It’s what the latter group does that could play out in interesting ways, those candidates blocking and tackling could act as an attack dog for the frontrunner to ensure they emerge unscathed from a primary. There could also be candidates running as a stalking horse, perhaps with the intent to drop out of contention only to throw their support behind someone else and swing momentum. 

Section 70 of the Kentucky Constitution says, “The Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be elected for the term of four years by the qualified voters of the State. They shall be elected jointly by the casting by each voter of a single vote applicable to both offices, as shall be provided by law. The slate of candidates having the highest number of votes cast jointly for them for Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall be elected.” 

Republican super majorities in the House and Senate passed legislation in 2020 and then overrode a veto to separate the pairings in primary elections.   

Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, filed the bill during the 2020 session which effectively calls an audible on the Constitution and delays when the candidate slates are formed. Via this change, Fischer allows candidates to run in the May primary without a running mate. In a master stroke of political Jenga, this is accomplished by bumping the deadline to form a slate back to the second Tuesday in August. After the May primary election. 

Kentuckians during the General Election will get to vote for a slate of both candidates, just not primary voters. By bumping the slate filing deadline back and not altering what happens in the general the gubernatorial calculus has changed considerably.