Legion. An amalgamated journal.

Taking Judd Gregg’s shoe size

Slate writes on the current speculation over the possibility shunting Judd Gregg over to Commerce, noting correctly that it is only a dramatic political situation because of the way we replace Senators.

One option would be for New Hampshire to take steps to hold a special election, as was proposed in Illinois. A number of states – including Rhode Island and Maryland – are currently considering such moves.

If there are legal or state constitutional barriers to quickly making this shift in New Hampshire, Lynch and legislators there could do what some states did before the passage of the 17th amendment. In the early years of the 20th century, when senators were still selected by state legislators, a handful of progressive states organized “advisory elections,” in which candidates campaigned and voters cast ballots. Once the ballots were counted, the legislature would take the advice of the voters and name the winner to the Senate.

As I understand it, the only legal barrier is statutory, not constitutional, in Title LXIII, RSA 661:5:

661:5 United States Senator. – If a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator, the governor shall fill the vacancy by temporary appointment until the next state general election, when a senator shall be elected for the unexpired term.
Source. 1979, 436:1, eff. July 1, 1979.

It would be interesting if the General Court—which is held by Democrats in both houses—rammed through a lightning-quick revision to 661:5 changing the replacement process to a special election, thus forcing Gregg’s hand. Either way, Gregg has been damaged on the right by the episode (just Google “Judas Gregg”), making his already-tricky 2010 race even trickier.

Garrett Dash Nelson

January 31st, 2009 at 10:10 pm