Two Democrats in the Maryland Legislature want to change the way U.S. Senate vacancies are filled, and Republicans are crying foul. We understand their distress, but the bill sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin and Delegate David Moon, both of Montgomery County, is a more democratic and less political method of filling a vacancy should a U.S. senator resign or die before his or her term ends. Current law empowers the governor to appoint a replacement until the next statewide election. That could conceivably mean a full two years in the U.S. Senate for a political appointment, as opposed to someone chosen by voters. But Republicans are understandably irked at the timing of this legislation. If Democrats are so sold on its merits, why was it not introduced during Gov. Martin O’Malley’s eight years at the helm? ”It’s interesting that the first year of a Republican governor, they’re trying to strip powers from him,” state GOP executive director Joe Cluster said in a recent Baltimore Sun story. Both Raskin and Moon argue that the bill will put this power appropriately in the hands of voters.
Moon notes in the Sun story that Senate vacancies are an uncommon occurrence. True, but the respective ages of Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, 78 and 71, raise the odds of that happening to some extent, a fact that was certainly not lost on the Democratic sponsors of this bill.
Under this legislation, the governor would appoint a temporary replacement in the event of a Senate vacancy. A special election would then be scheduled to take place within 90 days of the vacancy. The temporary placeholder would not be eligible to run for the seat.
This bill has a number of co-sponsors in both the Senate and House of Delegates. Predictably, they’re all Democrats. It’s difficult to argue with the logic and correctness of this bill, but Republicans are chafing that it’s being pursued just as Republican Larry Hogan becomes governor.