When Alabama senator Jeff Sessions was appointed Attorney General, he left a Senate seat open, which meant: the Alabama governor was tasked with filling the seat until a special election could be held. The governor chose Luther Strange as the fill-in senator–a decision some considered to be a corrupt move to stop an investigation of the governor.
Should the governor have had the authority to make that appointment that was under suspicious circumstances?
Should any governor have the authority to make U.S. Senate appointments?
Governors should make U.S. Senate appointments when seats are left vacant.
gotta stick with the constitution
The seventeenth amendment says:
The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution (1913) established direct election of senators, as well as a means of filling vacant Senate seats. If a vacancy occurs due to a senator’s death, resignation, or expulsion, the Seventeenth Amendment allows state legislatures to empower the governor to appoint a replacement to complete the term or to hold office until a special election can take place.
There are a few exceptions. Some states require a special election to fill a vacancy. A few states require the governor to appoint a replacement of the same political party as the previous incumbent.
besides, special elections—which are an alternative to a governor-appointment—are expensive
Special elections cost tens of millions of dollars (taxpayer money) and usually have voter turnouts that are much lower than in general elections.
Governors should not make U.S. Senate appointments when seats are left vacant.
it’s not an effective way to find a leader
According to Senate archives, only a little over 30% of appointed Senators are then elected into office, allowing them to continue to serve the country past their appointment.
and, governors can appoint themselves
Only one governor was kept in office after a public election, according to NPR. Below is their list:
Montana, 1933 — Sen. Thomas Walsh (D) died. Gov. John Erickson (D) appointed him self and lost in the primary.
Kentucky, 1939 — Sen. Marvel Logan (D) died. Gov. Happy Chandler (D) appointed him self, and won two elections.
Nevada, 1945 — Sen. James Scrugham (D) died. Gov. Edward Carville (D) appointed him self, lost in the primary.
Idaho, 1945 — Sen. John Thomas (R) died. Gov. Charles Gossett (D) appointed him self, lost in the primary.
Wyoming, 1960 — Sen.-elect Keith Thomson (R) died. Gov. John J. Hickey (D) appointed him self, lost in the election.
New Mexico, 1962 — Sen. Dennis Chavez (D) died. Gov. Edwin Mechem (R) appointed him self, lost in the election.
Oklahoma, 1963 — Sen. Robert Kerr (D) died. Gov. J. Howard Edmondson (D) appointed him self, lost in the primary.
South Carolina, 1965 — Sen. Olin Johnston (D) died. Gov. Donald Russell (D) appointed self, lost 1966 primary.
don’t forget the Rod Blagojevich disaster
Rod Blagojevich was a two-term governor from Illinois who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for–among other things– trying to sell or trade the Senate seat that became vacant when President Obama went to the White House.
Back to the News Made Simple article here.