Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday Night Round-Up

  • In the Senate GOP's game of leadership musical chairs, it looks like Jon Kyl has locked up Trent Lott's Republican Whip position, opening up his Conference Chairman position (the #3 spot in the hierarchy), for which it appears Kay Bailey Hutchison, Lamar Alexander and Richard Burr will all run. Hutchison has already indicated that she may retire from the Senate before the end of her term so that she can run for Governor in 2010. Nevertheless, she is currently the Republican Policy Committee Chair (the #4 spot in the hierarchy), so she may have the inside track.

    If Lamar Alexander makes a big push for the Conference Chairman position and loses to Hutchison, it will be a major embarrassment for him, as Alexander was also outvoted in last-minute maneuvering for the Whip spot leading up to the start of the current Legislative session. Jim DeMint and John Cornyn may also be in the scrum for leadership roles.

  • Mississippi: Unweighted favorable-unfavorable poll numbers are out for some of the would-be Senate candidates: Former state Attorney General Mike Moore (D) 48-34-19; former Governor Ronnie Musgrove (D) 39-46-15; Rep. Roger Wicker (R) 39-13-48; Mississippi state Supreme Court Justice James Graves (R) 16-19-65. It is unsurprising to see Rep. Wicker (only well-known in his own Congressional district) and Justice Graves (how many voters really know their state Supreme Court Justices?) with high unknowns. The approval ratings at present certainly suggest that former AG Moore would be a stronger candidate than former Gov. Musgrove. Expect more numbers soon. As Kos comments, "Weird that they didn't poll [former Rep. Chip] Pickering..." It's only getting weirder, as Pickering's father, retired federal Judge Charles Pickering, is now being mentioned as a possibility.

    Meanwhile, Mississippi's top law enforcement official, state Attorney General Jim Hood, will keep a close eye on GOP Gov. Haley Barbour's scheduling of the special election, and will pursue legal action if he feels Barbour is bending the law. What is the actual law at hand? (Emphasis added by me.)

    If a vacancy shall occur in the office of United States Senator from Mississippi by death, resignation or otherwise, the Governor shall, within ten (10) days after receiving official notice of such vacancy, issue his proclamation for an election to be held in the state to elect a Senator to fill such unexpired term as may remain, provided the unexpired term is more than twelve (12) months and the election shall be held within ninety (90) days from the time the proclamation is issued and the returns of such election shall be certified to the Governor in the manner set out above for regular elections, unless the vacancy shall occur in a year that there shall be held a general state or congressional election, in which event the Governor's proclamation shall designate the general election day as the time for electing a Senator, and the vacancy shall be filled by appointment as hereinafter provided.
    Do you notice the only word I emphasized? "Shall." Barbour is saying that, since Mississippi had its state election earlier this month, in the 2007 calendar year, he can bump the special election to Election Day 2008. Barbour's partisan goal, of course, is to give the appointee a year as the Senate "incumbent" to give the Republican a leg up on the Democrat come election time. However, legal experts, like state Attorney General Jim Hood, might suggest that the letter of the law indicates that, since "shall" is future tense, 2007 is no longer a year in which "there 'shall' be held a general state or congressional election" because the election has come and gone. 2007 is a year in which there was a state election, but it is no longer a year in which there shall be a state election - meaning that the special election has to be scheduled within 90 days from the time of proclamation. A little hard to follow, maybe, but that is the letter of the law, for you strict constructionists out there. With Lott planning on resigning before the end of 2007 in order to duck 2008's more stringent lobbying restrictions, expect the scheduling of the special election to result in a legal battle, over "shall."

  • Tennessee: Democratic businessman and gubernatorial son Mike McWherter has withdrawn from consideration for the 2008 Senate race. (HT: TennViews) So who's up next for the Democrats?

    With McWherter out, state Democratic Party spokesman Wade Munday told CQ Politics that the attentions of party officials have returned to Bob Tuke — a Vietnam veteran and former state Democratic chairman — and Nashville lawyer Kevin Doherty. Both Democrats had previously indicated an interest in running for Senate but deferred to McWherter.
    It looks like Tuke is ready to go. He would have deferred to McWherter, but had been enthusiastic about the possibility of a Senate challenge to Alexander. If I had to guess, I'd expect a Tuke announcement will come in the next couple weeks.

  • Idaho: Check out the must-have holiday gift this season!

  • Virginia: Remember when Senator John Warner, the most powerful Republican in Virginia, criticized the Virginia Republican Party for its "distressing" "rigidity"? Well, I guess the VA-GOP didn't hear him because they're now making Republican voters sign a loyalty oath!


    Blogger Matthew said...

    Guru, enforcement of the oath (which is impossible) would have to come from the Virginia Attorney General and Regent University Law School graduate, Bob McDonnell. Regent University is Pat Robertson's law school... a Tier IV Law School according to U.S. News and World Report rankings... I don't think enough people know that Bob McDonnell went to Regent University Law School so people need to know this because this needs to be his last stop in politics. Bob McDonnell went to Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School, the same powerhouse where Monica Goodling attended law school and then hired an attorney from A REAL LAW SCHOOL to defend her when she testified before Leahy's Senate Committee.

    11:41 PM, November 27, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    So matthew, what you're really saying is... nothing.

    8:05 AM, November 28, 2007  
    Blogger Johnny C said...


    You are right to focus on the word "shall" in the MS election law but the word "the" is also important. It does not say "a" general election but "the" general election which clearly means that the special is scheduled to occur with the future election that "shall" occur in the year of the vacancy. Not as Barbour would have us believe that if any state wide election has occurred this year he can schedule the special for any future general he choses.

    8:46 AM, November 28, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    johnny c said "It does not say "a" general election but "the" general election which clearly means that the special is scheduled to occur with the future election that "shall" occur in the year of the vacancy."

    The clause with the "the" versus "a" general election is still subordinate to the clause saying there "shall" be an election, so it still (should) reverts to the 90-day scheduling regardless.

    va blogger - I think all matthew is trying to point out is that the Virginia Attorney General, the top law guy for the state, went to a law school of questionable repute, a point that a political opponent (or, really, anybody concerned about, well, law) might want to highlight in light of the fact that so many graduates of the Robertson/Falwell schools populate state and federal government and also prove to be incompetent at their jobs, like Goodling did.

    9:23 AM, November 28, 2007  
    Blogger The Sleep said...

    CQ Politics is reporting that "Kell Smith, spokesman for Democratic Secretary of State Eric Clark said that their office “agrees” with the proclamation and explained to CQ Politics that the vacancy date is irrelevant because general state elections were held this year and congressional elections are held next year and the next date for a general election is Nov. 4, 2008." I'm not an expert on how these things work, but isn't the election in his hands not the AG's? It also sounds like the MS Dems are either divided on the wisdom of fighting it out on this thing, or just leaving the field of battle altogether.

    10:16 AM, November 28, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    the sleep - Carrying out the election is in the Secretary of State's hands. Making sure election law and all state law is properly executed ultimately rests with the state Attorney General.

    If the AG wants to pursue action (and there is a case to be pursued), it will simply come down to whether or not the Mississippi state Supreme Court agrees with Barbour's technicality that, since there was an election already in 2007, he can just bump the special to Election Day 2008, or if they agree with the Attorney General's reading of the statute that a special must be scheduled within 90 days of the proclamation.

    11:05 AM, November 28, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Yes, I think bashing Liberty and Regent University is a sound electoral strategy in Virginia.

    Matthew, whine and cry about it as you like, but the smart dollar says that Bob McDonnell will be the next Governor of Virginia.

    1:32 PM, November 28, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    va blogger - right, because recent electoral results have shown the iron-firm grip the Religious Right still has on Virginia statewide politics. And the smart dollar also said that George Macaca Allen would be the easy front runner for the 2008 GOP Prez nomination. How smart is that dollar?

    2:30 PM, November 28, 2007  
    Blogger Matthew said...

    We're not that far away from the 16month anniversary of Macaca.

    10:50 PM, November 28, 2007  

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