Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What Happens In Senate If Vitter Resigns?

Even discussing this scenario makes the leap of assuming that the average Republican feels anything in the way of shame, but it's probably important that we at least consider what will happen if the GOP's David Vitter of Louisiana resigns his U.S. Senate seat in the wake of disclosures that he is a former customer of the famed "DC Madam."

''This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,'' Vitter said Monday in a printed statement. ''Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there -- with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.''

Fair enough, even though, true Republican that he is, Vitter is a giant hypocrite, having lashed out at gay people -- or, excuse me, protected "the sanctity of marriage" -- while saying in 2004 that "we need a U.S. Senator who will stand up for Louisiana values, not Massachusetts’s values."

But what if the people of Louisiana step up and say they want a U.S. Senator who doesn't preach about values while trolling for hookers and Vitter is forced to leave office?

The answer is that Democrats will in all likelihood pick up a Senate seat.

Section 1278 of the Louisiana Election Code (Title 18) confirms that, as with many states, the Governor has the right to appoint a replacement from any political party and Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco would certainly appoint a fellow Democrat to the seat.

"If the United States Senate is in session when the vacancy occurs, the governor shall appoint a senator to fill the vacancy within ten days after receiving official notice of the vacancy," reads the Louisiana Election Code. "If a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator and the unexpired term is more than one year, an appointment to fill the vacancy shall be temporary."

Given that Vitter's term expires in 2010, this means that whomever Blanco appoints would serve until a special election could be held as follows:
Any senator so appointed shall serve until his successor is elected at a special election and takes office. Within ten days after receiving official notice of the vacancy, the governor shall issue his proclamation for special election to fill the vacancy for the unexpired term. The special first primary election shall be held four weeks prior to the dates for special primary elections as provided in R.S. 18:402(E)(1), the special second primary election shall be held on the dates as provided for special primary elections in R.S. 18:402(E)(1), and the special general election shall be held on the dates as provided in R.S. 18:402(E)(3).

The dates of the qualifying period shall be established by the governor in accordance with this Part. Immediately after issuance of the proclamation, which shall include the dates of the first and second party primary and general elections and the dates of the qualifying period, the governor shall publish the proclamation in the official journal of each parish in which the election is to be held. Within twenty-four hours after its issuance, the governor shall send a copy of the proclamation to the secretary of state. Within twenty-four hours after he receives the copy, the secretary of state shall notify all election officials having any duty to perform in connection with a special election to fill such vacancy, including the parish boards of election supervisors for the parish or parishes in which the vacancy occurred. The election shall be conducted and the returns shall be certified as in regular elections for United States senator.
Good luck weeding through that. As best I can tell, the special election would be held sometime in late 2007 or early 2008. I'm still unclear on whether or not the new Senator would then have to run again in 2010, but I'm awfully sure that would be the case.

But, no matter, unless Blanco were to decide she wants to be as beloved in the Democratic party as Zell Miller, I think Democrats could count on picking up a seat for at least a short amount of time.

Don't hold your breath. I'm guessing that in GOP circles, visiting a prostitute right after going to church is standard fare like accepting bribes or money laundering and that no shame will be forthcoming.