The Connecticut State Senate is rushing through legislation to strip (Republican) Governor Jodi Rell of her power to appoint a successor to Senator Chris Dodd, if he should resign his office:
In another controversial bill, the Senate Democrats voted early Friday morning to remove Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s power to appoint a U.S. Senator in case of a vacancy.
Instead, there would be a special election if one of the two U.S. Senators – currently Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph I. Lieberman – stepped down from office before the six-year term ended…
The bill has two exceptions, including if the senator stepped down in the final year of the term. The gubernatorial appointment would then remain in effect. The second exception would be if a catastrophe occurred and 50 U.S. Senators perished in a tragedy, which was a parallel to a federal, post-September 11, 2001 succession plan…
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat, said that the proposed change was in line with a broader trend of states moving toward direct primaries as a nod toward participatory democracy.
“An executive doesn’t fill vacancies for the state legislature,” Looney said shortly before 1 a.m. Friday.
It’s nice to see Democrats in Connecticut standing up for the right of the voters to elect Senators. If only corrupt Democrats in Illinois realized the same thing, they would not be dealing with the embarrassment of Senator Burris right now.
Beyond that, this has to be taken as a pretty strong signal to Chris Dodd that he needs to step aside. After all, it’s not coincidence that Connecticut Democrats want to change a law that has stood for nearly a century, at precisely the time that it affects Dodd alone. Assuming this revision takes effect, Chris Dodd has until next January (one year before the end of his elected term) to step aside without allowing Rell to name a Republican successor. That gives Dodd 6 months to realize his goose is cooked, and fall on his sword.
If Dodd takes the hint and steps aside, the race to succeed him would probably be a free-for-all. Virtually every prominent elected official in Connecticut is a Democrat – including all 5 Members of the House delegation. A special election late this year – or early in 2010 – would enable them to consider a race without having to surrender the offices they currently hold.
The one danger for Democrats is that it might enable Governor Rell to run as well. She would presumably not want to appoint herself to a Senate seat, but there’s no reason she should not consider running for an open seat. And in a short campaign against a crowded field of mostly lesser-known Democrats, she could very well win.