Currently, the US Senate is split 50-50. If something should happen and one of the Senators die or resign, it's possible that they are replaced by a new Senator from the opposite party, giving one side a 51-49 advantage, and thereby taking full control of the Senate.

Which current Senators fall into this category? That is, which Senators come from a state where the governor is of a different party and has the authority to appoint whomever they want to an empty Senate seat?

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    Only very strong ones: 100 people are quite heavy. Mar 8, 2021 at 16:12
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    @thumbtackthief - Not to mention the weight of the chamber itself.
    – Bobson
    Mar 8, 2021 at 16:13
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    @thumbtackthief we know it's you in there, KenM, you can't hide that easily
    – Dan A.
    Mar 8, 2021 at 21:13
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    @pacoverflow I think that's how a lot of current events Stack Exchange questions work. And anyway, it doesn't hurt for no one to care about it in the future, at the very least it will serve for archival purposes. Mar 9, 2021 at 3:43
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    @pacoverflow You’re welcome to take the question to meta - I’m not sure if it’s ever been explicitly discussed - but this is pretty typical for Politics.SE. Politics is way too topical to do otherwise, in my opinion. Admittedly, it’s possible to answer this with a straight list and no explanation, which would be useless in the future as more than a snapshot, but a good answer (like the two here) will explain why, which will continue to be relevant, even as the office holders change.
    – Bobson
    Mar 9, 2021 at 7:36

2 Answers 2


According to a report by Smart Politics, 15 states (plus Georgia) currently have a partisan split between the Governor and the Senators.

  • Four states have Democratic governors and two Republican U.S. Senators: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina
  • Two states have Democratic governors and one U.S. Senator from each major party: Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
  • One state has a Democratic governor with Republican and independent U.S. Senators: Maine
  • Four states have Republican governors and two Democratic U.S. Senators: Arizona, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire*
  • Three states have Republican governors and one U.S. Senator from each major party: Montana, Ohio, West Virginia
  • One state has a Republican governor with Democratic and independent U.S. Senators: Vermont

*Since this report was published, Georgia has also become governed by a Republican, with two Democratic Senators.

A Congressional Research Service report entitled Filling U.S. Senate Vacancies: Perspectives and Contemporary Developments gives an overview of the state laws on US Senate vacancies.

Of these 16 states, 9 allow the Governor to appoint a replacement from a different party until the expiry of the original term, or the next statewide election: Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia. A further three also allow gubernatorial appointments from a different party, but with a proximate special election to be held: Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

Of the remaining four, only Wisconsin disallows gubernatorial appointment entirely - the others require that the replacement comes from the same party as the old Senator (Arizona, North Carolina) or from a list of candidates prepared by their party (Maryland).

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    KY may not be on this list much longer. Mitch McConnell and the GOP-controlled state senate are attempting to change the selection process. The impetus behind this seems to be to allow McConnell to choose Daniel Cameron as his successor if McConnell does not finish his term
    – BThompson
    Mar 8, 2021 at 17:05
  • How many of those cross party state have rules that allow for appointing someone from a different party to fill the seat? I know some states require a replacement appointee to be in the same party.
    – Joe W
    Mar 8, 2021 at 22:24
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    @JoeW - That's covered in the next-to-last paragraph: Of these 16 states, 9 allow the Governor to appoint a replacement from a different party
    – Bobson
    Mar 8, 2021 at 22:56
  • The distinction you highlight between the "party approved" approach in Maryland and the "just the same party" approach elsewhere is v interesting - would this (in theory) incentivise a governor to pick the most centrist possible candidate from the other side? Mar 9, 2021 at 11:47
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    @MikeScott: That would depend on the state's lean. In a state that tends to be strongly partisan for national elections (like Maryland), appointing an extremist may not cause the seat to flip, so a centrist would probably be a better choice for an appointment by a governor from the other side. OTOH, in a state that tends less partisan for national offices (like Pennsylvania), the chances of a flip are greater, so maybe an extreme appointee would lead to a flip. OT3H, such an appointment might be seen/used as an endorsement when the extremist runs in the next election, so could backfire.
    – GreenMatt
    Mar 9, 2021 at 18:46

tl;dr: There are currently 13 senate seats which could be flipped (plus one special case), 7 would go to the Republicans and 6 to the Democrats

Not including those states where an interim gubernatorial appointment is permitted but limited to 6 months or less (which accounts for four states where the governor and at least one senator are not from the same party), currently 5 states' governors have the ability and party preference to swing the senate to the Republicans, and 4 where there would be a swing to the Democrats.

To the Republicans:

Governor State Senators
Brian Kemp Georgia Both Jon Ossoff & Raphael Warnock
Greg Gianforte Montana Jon Tester
Chris Sununu New Hampshire Both Jeanne Shaheen & Maggie Hassan
Richard Michael DeWine Ohio Sherrod Brown
Jim Justice West Virginia Joe Manchin

To the Democrats

Governor State Senators
Laura Kelly Kansas Both Jerry Moran & Roger Marshall
Andy Beshear Kentucky Both Mitch McConnell & Rand Paul
Janet T. Mills Maine Susan Collins (and technically, Angus King)
Tom Wolf Pennsylvania Pat Toomey

A note on Angus King, although an Independent, he does caucus with the Democratic party.

Arizona, Maryland, and North Carolina would fall under this, but the law states that replacement senators appointed by the governor must be of the same party as the senator who vacated the seat.

There are three states which would see interim gubernatorial appointments, where at least one senator from that state is currently not of the same party as the governor.

State Length Senators
Louisiana max 11 weeks Bill Cassidy & John Kennedy
Massachusetts max 160 days Elizabeth Warren & Ed Markey
Vermont max 6 months Patrick Leahy & Bernie Sanders

The only state where there is a disparity between one or both senators and the governor where the governor can not appoint, even temporarily, a replacement senator would be Wisconsin (Ron Johnson).

Sources: Ballotpedia & Wikipedia

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    I was having a bit of trouble visually parsing the bullet points, so I used this as an opportunity to experiment with SE's new-ish tables. Feel free to revise.
    – Bobson
    Mar 8, 2021 at 20:59
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    @Bobson - No, that's cool. Now I know about tables. That will prove helpful. Mar 8, 2021 at 22:11
  • Update! Kentucky legislature passed a bill, and then overrode a veto on 3/29/21, so that now the state's party executive committee of the senator's party (in this case R) provides a list of 3 candidates of the senator's party (R) for the governor (currently D) to choose from.
    – Damila
    Mar 30, 2021 at 16:02

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