View Full Version : One of these things is not like the other...

08-28-2009, 04:42 PM
Weird huh?

Reversal on Senate Succession Stirs Political Storm
BOSTON -- A Democratic push to appoint a successor to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy is sparking a political tempest in Massachusetts, infuriating Republicans and dividing Democrats who only five years ago passed a law requiring that voters decide on Senate vacancies.

On a day when members of both parties paid their respects to Mr. Kennedy, a Democratic icon who died this week of brain cancer, Republicans accused Democrats of hypocrisy. In 2004, the state's Democrat-controlled legislature changed the law to prevent the governor from appointing an interim successor after a U.S. Senate seat becomes vacant. Instead, the new law requires that a special election be held between 145 and 165 days after the position becomes vacant.

At the time, Democratic Sen. John Kerry was running for president and Massachusetts had a Republican governor, Mitt Romney. Proponents of changing the law argued that a gubernatorial appointment was undemocratic and that only voters should decide on a replacement. Democrats also feared Mr. Romney would appoint a Republican.

Now, with Mr. Kennedy dying three years before his term was up, some Massachusetts Democrats are reversing course, calling for Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint an interim replacement to hold office until the special election can be held. They now argue the state shouldn't be without full Senate representation for months, especially with pressing issues such as health care before Congress.

The Massachusetts situation is the latest to erupt over filling vacant U.S. Senate seats, following particularly messy appointments in New York and Illinois.

On Thursday, Mr. Kennedy's casket traveled by motorcade to Boston from his family's Hyannis Port, Mass., compound. Mourners lined streets along the route as the hearse passed by colonial-era Faneuil Hall and the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a public park named for Mr. Kennedy's mother.

The senator was to lie in repose for public viewing Thursday and Friday at the John F. Kennedy library on Boston's harbor. President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at the funeral Saturday morning in Boston, before Mr. Kennedy is buried next to his slain brothers, John and Robert, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Away from the political infighting, mourners lamented Massachusetts's loss of clout in the U.S. Senate. "Whoever goes in will not have remotely close to the influence he had," said Ted Glynn of Boston. "That's a big concern."

The question of how to fill Mr. Kennedy's seat is vexing Democrats. In 2004, Mr. Kennedy supported a special election rather than a gubernatorial appointment. Yet more recently, he wrote to Mr. Patrick and legislative leaders, urging that Massachusetts give the governor the power to appoint an interim successor.

Mr. Kennedy wrote that the governor should receive "an explicit personal commitment" from the appointee not to become a candidate in the special election. Mr. Patrick has supported the idea, and brushes aside concerns that Democrats were being inconsistent: "Massachusetts needs two voices in the United States Senate," he said this week.

In 2004, Democrats took the opposite tack. When some Republicans complained of the cost of a special election, Democratic Rep. William Straus said such reasoning might have been used in a "totalitarian country" and that "one person, whoever happens to be governor, will not make the decision for you."

In an interview Thursday, Mr. Straus stood by his words, saying he recently heard from many other Democrats who feel Mr. Patrick is making a mistake.

Mr. Straus said there always will be a pressing issue in Washington that seems more important than having an election. "We need to hold ourselves to the higher principles of democracy," he said.

Massachusetts state Sen. Brian A. Joyce, a Democrat who headed the election-laws committee in 2004, agreed. "If we were to allow an appointment, it would be wholly undemocratic," he said. "When you cut through the rhetoric on both sides, it's pure partisan politics."

Earlier this year, State Rep. Robert Koczera, a Democrat, introduced a bill to restore the governor's senate appointment powers. In 2004, he supported stripping Mr. Romney of the power to appoint a replacement senator.

He said he was against the idea in 2004 because he thought Mr. Romney's replacement would be able to run in the special election. Under Mr. Koczera's proposed bill, the replacement couldn't run.

State Rep. Frank Smizik, a Democrat, also backs an interim appointment. "I strongly believe in the electorate's deciding the election of our officials," he said. "However, Massachusetts should have a vote on the important issues like health care and global warming. To not do so would be cutting off your nose to spite your face."

Massachusetts Republicans pledged to make the most of the Democrats' reversal in coming elections. "If legislators go through with this, they are gigantic hypocrites," said Jennifer Nassour, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party. "There is no other way to label them."

Apart from the question of democracy, allowing a governor to appoint a lawmaker can backfire.

Filling a U.S. Senate seat recently created a headache for New York Gov. David Paterson, who had the power to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton when she became secretary of state. Mr. Paterson considered Caroline Kennedy -- Edward Kennedy's niece -- but after an episode that generated unflattering publicity for both Mr. Paterson and Ms. Kennedy, he ended up choosing then-Rep. Kirsten E. Gillibrand.

Last year in Illinois, meanwhile, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was accused of trying to sell the seat vacated by Mr. Obama. He eventually picked Roland Burris, but questions about what may have influenced his choice continued for months.


Crist Picks Former Chief of Staff to Replace Fla. Sen. Martinez
Gov. Charlie Crist chose trust and loyalty Friday over Washington experience or potential political gain in choosing former chief of staff George LeMieux to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.

State Rep. Jennifer Carroll, who was considered for the position, said Crist told her he is choosing LeMieux. LeMieux is Crist's closest political adviser and the governor's pick shows he wants someone who thinks like him to hold the Senate seat Crist hopes to win in the November 2010 election.

As LeMieux said after interviewing for the position: "I'm a Charlie Crist Republican."

Martinez congratulated LeMieux on his appointment.

"George is bright, capable, and an accomplished administrator," he said in a written statement. "My staff and I stand ready to ensure a smooth transition."

Florida GOP leaders applauded the appointment.

"Once again, Charlie Crist has demonstrated his commitment to serving Floridians, by appointing George LeMieux who is well qualified, a dedicated public servant, conservative Republican and an excellent choice!" exclaimed Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

But the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee immediately assailed the appointment.

"Charlie Crist came as close as he could to appointing himself to this position," the DSCC said in a written statement. "At a time when so many Floridians are unemployed, and many others facing foreclosures, we have learned nothing is beyond the pale for Charlie Crist."

"Today marked another Charlie Crist choice that significantly impacts the state of Florida but is ultimately about promoting himself," the group added.

LeMieux served as deputy attorney general under Crist and left that job to run Crist's 2006 campaign for governor. Once elected, Crist picked LeMieux to serve as chief of staff. LeMieux left the position in December 2007 and has since worked for the Tallahassee law firm Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart.

Crist has continued to seek LeMieux' advice on political and policy issues.

Crist had a final list of nine candidates for the appointment. It included former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, Mike Bilirakis and Lou Frey. Crist also passed on a chance to please party conservatives by picking former Sen. Dan Webster. The governor also could have tried to win points with certain constituents by picking Carroll, a black woman and retired Navy officer, or former U.S. Attorney Roberto Martinez, who was born in Cuba.

Other candidates considered were University of North Florida president and former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney and Jim Smith, a Tallahassee lobbyist who is a former attorney general and secretary of state.

Martinez announced in December he wouldn't seek a second term, and earlier this month said he would step down once Crist found a replacement. Martinez was the first Cuban native to be elected to the Senate, and previously served as President George W. Bush's housing secretary.

LeMieux was born and raised in Broward County and was twice elected the county's Republican Party chairman. In 1998 he unsuccessfully ran for a state House seat.

Crist faces former House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary next August. U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek is the only major Democrat in the race, though Rep. Corrine Brown has formed a committee to explore a Senate run.

08-28-2009, 05:35 PM
Mr. Kennedy wrote that the governor should receive "an explicit personal commitment" from the appointee not to become a candidate in the special election. Mr. Patrick has supported the idea, and brushes aside concerns that Democrats were being inconsistent: "Massachusetts needs two voices in the United States Senate," he said this week. That's the deal-maker right there. It makes sense to have an appointment to fill the seat until the special election can be held (assuming that it is held as soon as possible). The only real advantage the Dems could gain from that would be short term, if the temp appointee isn't allowed to participate in the special election.

As I understand it, in 2004, the gubernatorial appointment was permanent (as in, the appointee would finish out the full term)?

In MS, Trent Lott retired/resigned in December 2007. State law calls for a special election, but the (Republican) governor appointed someone to fill in until the special election could be held. They actually got away with postponing the special election past the specified time limit, until the November 2008 general election. Anyway, the temporary appointee was allowed to run, and he did, and he won. This all sailed by without much complaint because all parties involved were Republican, the state is Republican, and the appointee's opponent was a Dixiecrat anyway.

I always thought it was odd that Massachusetts had a Republican governor. They're fairly well known for being the bluest state in US. Not counting Hawaii, cause they're just weird.

08-28-2009, 06:30 PM
Im not exactly sure what the point is, ST. To demonstrate that Democrats are not immune to hypocrisy? That some are putting party before law or country? Of course not. There are too many of them. Of course, in my admittedly biased opinion they have a LONG way to go before they can match Republicans on either front (Note: even with this Health Care stuff, there has been little to no talk of nuking the filibuster - that would be hypocrisy).

Personally, I think the best solution for these things is to have the party head - Dem. or Rep. as the case may be - in the state appoint a replacement until a special election can be held. The replacement would be barred from running in the special election. Its not perfect - stretching the special election time frame can be done, for example - but there is never a perfect solution. My feeling, though, is that the people of xxx state voted for a person of one political party or persuasion (yes, I know that there are different flavors of Democrat and Republican) and that should be maintained until the people of xxx state can vote again.

If the people elected a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Independent, Communist, Nazi, or Bozoite to office then that seat should stay Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green Independent, Communist, Nazi or Bozoite until the next election.

EDIT: Im not sure what the comparison between the articles is, still, ST. There is not likely to be much controversy when a Governor of one party replaces a Senator of the same party from within the party (unless, of course, the governor is trying to sell the seat) - or from his advisors. The controversy comes - rightfully so - when the governor of one party changes the seat from one party to another without an election.

08-28-2009, 08:48 PM
Vermont's bluer than Mass and we have a "republican" governor too. Granted our "republican governor is probably bluer than most Dems. Terez, you have to understand that New England's local Republican parties are still pretty moderate compared to their national counterparts. They're usually of the pro-choice, individual choice, less tax variety of GOP, not the fundamentalist right wing nutbag version.

08-30-2009, 05:52 PM
Cali's had a long line of Republican governors as well, despite being a hippie hotbed. California Republicans, in general, are more left-leaning as well. Except in rural areas. Those people are insane.

i can say that cuz i'm related to them. My relatives in the Central Valley are more reactionary than my relatives in the deep South. Go fig.

and yes, i'm also laughing at Massachusetts.