A Helena attorney submitted a ballot initiative proposal Tuesday that would change Montana law to remove the power of filling U.S. Senate vacancies from the governor and instead require special elections. The process was in the spotlight last month when Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock named his lieutenant governor, John Walsh, to replace longtime U.S. Sen. Max Baucus. Republican legislative leaders criticized Bullock’s selection, saying it was done in secrecy and with no input from the public. The proposal by attorney James Brown calls for holding a special primary election within 60 days of the governor being notified of a Senate vacancy. The primary would be followed by a special general election between 50 and 85 days later. The winner would serve until the next regular general election.
There would be no special election if the vacancy occurs in an even-numbered year between the regular primary and general elections, according to the proposal. Instead, the person elected would take office immediately after the regular general election to fill the remainder of the term.
Brown did not immediately return a call for comment. He is the legal counsel for the Montana Republican Party and previously represented American Tradition Partnership, a conservative group that gained notoriety by filing lawsuits to overturn several state campaign laws and by mailing attack ads against moderate Republican candidates in recent elections.