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Illinois Could Get Dueling Senate Elections

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    NEWSLETTERS

     

    Oh, God no. Please, no. Not another one. Not another Senate election.

    We still have four-and-half-months to go in what’s been called “the nastiest Senate race in the country,” and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is suggesting we hold another one on Nov. 2.

    The court was ruling on a suit filed by activists Gerald Judge and David Kindler, who demanded Gov. Pat Quinn order a special election to fill the remainder of Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate term.

    They cited the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which specifies that “the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”

    When Sen. Everett Dirksen died in office in 1969, Ralph Tyler Smith was appointed to fill his seat until a special election could be held the next year. Adlai Stevenson III won, and took office the next day. But Dirksen died with more than five years remaining in his term. Obama’s term expires Jan. 3, 2011, just 62 days after the next general election, so there seemed to be no harm in allowing Roland Burris to serve right until the end.

    The District Court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction ordering a special election. The Circuit Court tepidly upheld that decision, but suggested the District Court should order such an election.

    “There is still time for the governor to issue a writ of election that will call for an election on the date established by Illinois law and that will make it clear to the voters that they are selecting a replacement for Senator Obama,” Judge Diane Wood wrote. “The district court can easily reach and resolve the merits of this request before any of the harm that the plaintiffs forecast comes to pass. Moreover, circumstances change: Governor Quinn might issue a writ of election tomorrow, or next week.”

    If the district court does order a special election, Mark Kirk and Alexi Giannoulias should run in that one, too, to get a nine-week jump in seniority on other senators elected this year. It used to be common for senators to resign immediately after their replacements were elected. The governor would then appoint the newly-elected senator to fill the remainder of the retiring senator’s term. But the Senate no longer counts that toward seniority.

    They should also run because the last thing we need in this state is two more Senate candidates.