Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Massachusetts Dems should learn from GOP on Senate succession policy

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When Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) died, the terms of succession fell to the governor who had to chose between three candidates supplies by the party of the senator.

When Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) died, the terms of succession fell to the governor who had to chose between three candidates supplies by the party of the senator.

In Hawaii and Wyoming, both governors happened to be from the same party as the senator in question. Those two states are likely to have that scenario of Democratic in Hawaii and Republican in Wyoming. The law is a good safeguard in case the circumstances change.

When the Massachusetts legislature changed the rule for senator succession, the Dems were trying to avoid having Mitt Romney pick a Republican to replace John Kerry. The Dems didn’t go the route of Hawaii, Wyoming, Arizona, and a number of other states. After all, when John McCain ran for president in 2008, a similar law was in place.

The Massachusetts Dems got victimized when Scott Brown won a special election against Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy’s seat. And they could suffer the same kind of bite, ironically for John Kerry’s Senate seat.

The play by McCain, Lindsay Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Joe Lieberman (behind the curtain) against Susan Rice was made to open up Kerry’s Senate seat. And it worked, at least in opening up the seat.

In the 2004 scenario, Gov. Romney would have had to pick a Democratic replacement. In 2009, Gov. Deval Patrick, a fellow Democratic politician, would have had to pick a Democratic replacement.

The only way the law could have backfired on the Dems is if a Republican in the seat died or left the Senate, and the Dems couldn’t get back the seat right away.

Somehow, this feels a bit more democratic (small d). The voters voted in someone whose values reflect on the majority of those who voted for the senator. Giving the governor the all-knowing decision power has, on occasion, been abused. You might be thinking Rod Blagojevich (Illinois), and this is true. Would also offer up Frank Murkowski (Alaska), who upon going from the Senate to the governor’s chair, replaced himself with his daughter, Lisa. (Sarah Palin beat Frank Murkowski in the governor primary in the next election, so you can blame Frank Murkowski.)

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