Race for Lott's Seat Getting Attention

By: Chris Brennaman Email
By: Chris Brennaman Email

Sen. Trent Lott said he decided just days ago that now is the time to call it quits. He was just one year into his fourth six-year Senate term.

Lott also said he'd like to see someone younger than he is, at age 66, take his place, though he says he doesn't have any favorites.

So what's next? There is some dispute among state Democrats and Republicans about where to go from here.

The Democratic Party in the state of Mississippi has taken exception to the Gov. Haley Barbour's plan to appoint Lott's interim replacement.

That person will serve in Lott's seat until a special election is held Nov. 4, 2008. The appointment is expected to be a Republican and would likely have the upper hand when the election rolls around.

Lauderdale County Democratic Party chairman, Melba Clark, said state Democrats interpret state law differently than Barbour does on this issue, and say the election should be held within 90 days of the office being vacated.

"The problem is in the fairness and following the law. People vote for who they want and there's no problem with that," said Clark. "But the Democratic Party feels that the law should be followed and Gov. Barbour is not doing that."

The two names that have been most mentioned as possible appointees are by Cong. Roger Wicker and Cong. Chip Pickering.

On the Democratic side, former attorney general Mike Moore and former governor Ronnie Musgrove's names have been mentioned as potential candidates in the special election.

In fact, Musgrove says he's seriously considering it. He said people in the south are frustrated and concerned about Washington not doing anything about "the rising cost of health care and gas, the shaky economy, and the housing problem." Musgrove said he'll make a decision on whether or not to tun in the next few days.

Moore issued a statement, which indicated he has some interest. It stated in part: "I appreciate all the calls from friends, colleagues and supporters encouraging me to run. I will make my decision soon."

Mississippi law appears to offer options to the governor in how special elections may be scheduled to fill a Senate vacancy.

SEC. 23-15-855. Elections to fill vacancies in office of U.S. Senator; interim appointments by Governor.

(1) 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.

(2) In case of a vacancy in the office of United States Senator, the Governor may appoint a Senator to fill such vacancy temporarily, and if the United States Senate be in session at the time the vacancy occurs the Governor shall appoint a Senator within ten (10) days after receiving official notice thereof, and the Senator so appointed shall serve until his successor is elected and commissioned as provided for in subsection (1) of this section, provided that such unexpired term as he may be appointed to fill shall be for a longer time than one (1) year, but if for a shorter time than one (1) year he shall serve for the full time of the unexpired term and no special election shall be called by the Governor but his successor shall be elected at the regular election.


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