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Revolving Senate Seat

November 16, 2017

 

 

On Monday, November 6, 2017 Tennessee State Senator, Jim Tracy, announced he would resign his Senate seat after being appointed by the White House to the USDA. According to the Tennessee State Constitution...

 

Section 10. No person shall be a senator unless he shall be a citizen of the United States, of the age of thirty years, and shall have resided three years in this state, and one year in the county or district, immediately preceding the election. No senator or representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be eligible to any office or place of trust, the appointment to which is vested in the executive or the General Assembly, except to the office of trustee of a literary institution. (italics added)

 

Jim had to resign, by both the Tn Constitution and the Federal Hatch Act, he could not, by law, simultaneously be an high ranking employee of the Federal government and hold an elected office.

 

With the next regularly scheduled general election for this Senate seat set for Nov 3, 2020, it becomes necessary to fill the seat prior to the that date. Since his announced resignation, rumors and speculations are in abundance regarding who, when, and how a replacement will be elected or appointed. Actually, rumors had begun two weeks earlier, even before Jim’s announcement was made and I was asked about what would happen if Jim quit. So, on October 24, 2017, based on that rumor that Jim was resigning, I sent an email to CTAS Consultant Doug Bodary asking for the procedure to replace a member of the state legislature.

 

Here is his reply:

 

Good timing Chuck as I had the same question from Wilson County when Mae Beavers resigned a little while back!

 

As noted in the attached, the county commission in the county of residency would vote for an interim to finish out the time in office if there was less then 12 months to  the next election.  In Senator Beaver's case, it was longer then 12 months to the next election, therefore the Governor called for a special election.  

 

An interesting event in Wilson County was that the county commission declined to appoint an interim since their special election was to be held before the next legislative session began, so they just decided to leave the senate seat vacant.  The primary for their special election is next month with the general election in December, so whoever wins this will be on board to represent the district in Nashville come January.  

 

Doug Bodary

County Government Consultant

The University of Tennessee

County Technical Assistance Service

226 Capitol Blvd, Suite 400

Nashville, Tennessee 37219

 

 

 

Doug included this earlier inquiry from him about Mae Beavers resignation:

 

 

From: Metzger, Jeffrey Michael

Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2017 3:47 PM

To: Bodary, Doug

Subject: RE: Mae Beavers - General Assembly Vacancy

 

Here are the statutes (TCA 2-14-201 et seq.) and constitutional provision (Art. 2, Sec. 15). Basically if more than twelve months remain before the next election then the Governor calls for a special election. Either way, the interim until the election is appointed by the commission of the replaced legislator’s county of residence.

 

 

§ 15. Vacancies in office, TN CONST Art. 2, § 15 

   

West's Tennessee Code Annotated Constitution of the State of Tennessee 

 

Article II. Distribution of Powers Legislative Department 

 

TN Const. Art. 2, § 15 

 

§ 15. Vacancies in office 

Currentness 

 

When the seat of any member of either House becomes vacant, the vacancy shall be filled as follows: 

 

(a) When twelve months or more remain prior to the next general election for legislators, a successor shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district represented, and such successor shall serve the remainder of the original term. The election shall be held within such time as provided by law. The legislative body of the replaced legislator's county of residence at the time of his or her election may elect an interim successor to serve until the election. 

 

(b) When less than twelve months remain prior to the next general election for legislators, a successor shall be elected by the legislative body of the replaced legislator's county of residence at the time of his or her election. The term of any Senator so elected shall expire at the next general election for legislators, at which election a successor shall be elected. 

 

(c) Only a qualified voter of the district represented shall be eligible to succeed to the vacant seat. 

 

Credits 

Amendment adopted in Convention Dec. 10, 1965, approved at election Nov. 8, 1966, and proclaimed by Governor Dec. 2, 1966; adopted in Convention Oct. 24, 1977, approved at election March 7, 1978, and proclaimed by Governor March 31, 1978. 

Notes of Decisions (1) 

Const. Art. 2, § 15, TN CONST Art. 2, § 15 Current through end of the 2015 First Reg. Sess. 

End of Document © 2015 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

West's Tennessee Code Annotated Title 2. Elections 

 

Chapter 14. Special Elections Part 2. Vacancies 

 

§2-14-201. When election required 

 

(a) If twelve (12) months or more remain prior to the next general election for members of the general assembly and the seat of a member of either house becomes vacant, a successor shall be elected pursuant to § 2-14-202(a)-(c) by the qualified voters of the district in which the vacancy occurred. The successor shall serve the remainder of the original term. 

 

(b) If a vacancy occurs with more than two (2) years remaining in a term in the state senate, but less than twelve (12) months prior to the next general election for members of the general assembly, then a successor shall be elected pursuant to § 2-14-202(d) by the qualified voters of the district in which the vacancy occurred. The successor shall serve the remainder of the original term. 

 

 

§2-14-202. Date of elections; state senate vacancies 

 

(a) If twelve (12) months or more remain prior to the next regular election for members of the general assembly, the governor shall, by writs of election, order a special election to fill such vacancy. 

 

(b)(1) The governor shall, by writs of election, set a date not less than fifty-five (55) nor more than sixty (60) days from the date of the writs for primary elections for nominations by statewide political parties to fill the vacancy and shall, by the same writs of election, set a date of not less than one hundred (100) nor more than one hundred seven (107) days from the date of the writs for a general election to fill the vacancy. 

 

(2) Candidates for the primary elections and independent candidates for the general election shall qualify as required in regular elections but shall file qualifying petitions no later than twelve o'clock (12:00) noon prevailing time on the sixth Thursday before the day of the primary elections. Any candidate wishing to withdraw shall do so before twelve o'clock (12:00) noon, prevailing time, on the fourth day after the qualifying deadline. 

 

(3) Except where this subsection (b) makes different provisions, part 1 of this chapter shall govern elections required by this subsection (b). The state primary boards shall perform their duties under chapter 8 of this title with respect to primaries held under this subsection (b) as quickly as practicable. 

 

(c)(1) If it is necessary to hold a special election to fill a vacancy in the membership of the general assembly, and the date for such election, as established under subsection (b), falls within thirty (30) days of a regular primary or general election being held in the legislative district, or alternatively falls within thirty (30) days of a municipal election being held in an odd-numbered year in a legislative district which is contained entirely within the boundaries of such municipality, the governor may issue the writ of election for the special election for the date which will coincide with the regular primary, general or municipal election. 

 

(2) If the date of the election is adjusted, as provided herein, all other dates dependent on the date of the election shall be adjusted accordingly, and any filing of candidacy, qualifying petitions, financial statements, or other acts shall be timely done if performed in accordance with the revised dates. 

 

(d)(1) If a vacancy occurs in the state senate in a seat with more than two (2) years remaining in the term, but less than twelve (12) months before the next general election for members of the general assembly, candidates for the primary elections and independent candidates shall qualify at the regular qualifying deadline for state elections. 

 

(2) If a vacancy as described in subdivision (d)(1) occurs after the seventh day before the regular qualifying deadline for statewide offices, candidates for the primary elections and independent candidates shall file the necessary qualifying petitions before twelve o'clock (12:00) noon, prevailing time, on the sixth Thursday before the day of the primary election. Any candidate wishing to withdraw shall do so before twelve o'clock (12:00) noon, prevailing time, on the fourth day after the qualifying deadline. 

 

(3) If a vacancy as described in subdivision (d)(1) occurs after the sixth Thursday before the primary election, then the members of the county executive committees who reside within the senate district may nominate a candidate to appear on the November election ballot by any method authorized under the rules of the party; provided, however, if no member of the county executive committee resides within the senate district, then the members of the county executive committees who represent precincts within the senate district may nominate a candidate. If a vacancy as described in subdivision (d) (1) occurs after the sixth Thursday before the primary election in any county having a metropolitan form of government with a population of more than five hundred thousand (500,000), according to the 2010 federal census or any subsequent federal census, then the members of the county executive committees who represent the precincts composing such senate district may nominate a candidate to appear on the November election ballot by any method authorized under the rules of the party. The procedure to be followed by an executive committee shall be the same as set forth in § 2-13-204(b)(4). Persons so chosen shall be certified to every county election commission wholly or partially in the district by twelve o'clock (12:00) noon, prevailing time, on the forty-fifth day prior to the regular November election. Independent candidates shall qualify by filing petitions as provided for in § 2-5-104 by twelve o'clock (12:00) noon, prevailing time, on the forty- fifth day prior to the regular November election. Any candidate wishing to withdraw shall do so before twelve o'clock (12:00) noon, prevailing time, on the fourth day after the qualifying deadline. 

 

(4) If a vacancy as described in subdivision (d)(1) occurs within forty-five (45) days of the next general election for legislators, the candidate receiving the highest number of write-in votes at such election shall be elected. 

 

 

§2-14-203. Interim successor 

 

The legislative body of the replaced legislator's county of residence at the time of such legislator's election may elect an interim successor to serve until the election. 

 

 

§2-14-204. Successors; eligibility 

 

Only a qualified voter of the district represented shall be eligible to succeed to the vacant seat. 

   

© 2017 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 2 

  

           

End of Document © 2017 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. 

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

SUMMARY:

 

My take on it is this:

 

The Governor starts the ball rolling when he decides to issue a “writs of elections”. I didn’t see anything in the law stating there is a specific time after the seat is vacated forcing the Governor to act on when he must issue the writ.

 

Per the TCA code the primary must be held no sooner than 55 nor longer than 60 days after the date of the writ, and the general election would be 45 to 52 days after the primary.

 

IF the Governor waits until after the holidays to issue his writ, (as some thinks he may do), let’s say Jan 2, 2018, then the primary date is set to be between 55 and 60 days later, no earlier than Feb 27,2018 and the general election would be 45 to 52 days later, with the earliest date being April 13, 2018.

 

If he issues the writ by this weekend, the primary could be as early as January 10, 2018 with the general as early as the 26th of February. I have heard it said by those running in the special election, they believe the primary will be in January. But until the writ is issued, its anyones guess.

 

Whomever is elected would take office at midnight of the general election, unless the results are so close they have to be recounted, etc…

 

Per TCA 2-14-203 “ The legislative body (County Commission) of the replaced legislator’s county of residence at the time of such legislator’s election may elect an interim successor to serve until the election.” (parenthesis and emphasis added). Note it says MAY and not SHALL, it is an option but not a requirement.

 

The question is, should the Bedford County Commission exercise this option and make an appointment to fill the seat for the interim period?  Consider this…. the Senator for the 14th district represents not only Bedford, but Moore and Lincoln counties as well as a portion of Rutherford. An interim successor may be reside anywhere in the 14th district, not just Bedford County. If the Commission decides to make an appointment, I believe in the interest of being fair to all people living in the 14th District, the Commission should first vote on whether or not to make an appointment. If the answer is yes, a full notice of the intent to make an appointment should be published in the newspapers of the entire district, thereby allowing for anyone interested in being appointed to make their intentions known and appear before the Commission. 

 

I have spoken with Jim Tracy, the County Mayors of Lincoln and Moore (Rutherford would not return my calls) as well as with the leadership of the state republican party. I have had numerous conversations and facebook chats with citizens, and the general consensus by most of these people is to leave the seat empty until the people of the entire district can vote on a replacement, after all, Jim was elected by the entire district.

 

I have had conversations with several people who have called me wanting to be appointed to the seat, and while I understand their desire to serve and and reasons for wanting an appointment, my feelings are that sending any one of them to the Capitol just to be a placeholder for a few weeks until the special election is held really does not benefit nor harm the district. The 2018 legislative season will be a quick one, since many in office are anxious to get on the campaign trail and legislators are not supposed to be campaigning and fund raising while in session.

 

This issue of appointment, most likely, will be discussed at the next Rules and Legislative Committee on Tuesday the 21st.  At our Commission meeting this past Tuesday, Commissioner Woodson asked John T about his political view concerning making an appointment. The short answer was to go to any coffee shop in town and one could get a variety of views, all which would be as good as his. He did go on to say there is a process for making appointments, but did not spell out the law. I would hope he would have some explanations ready by the time the Rules and Legislative Committee meet next week. I am pretty sure what I have written here is a sufficient enough explanation to make my decision, and unless John T has additional info, I am relying on this.

 

If the Rules and Legislative Committee decides to recommend making an appointment, the earliest the issue could be voted on by the Commission is Dec. 12. I feel sure by that time we will know when the special elections are to be held, but regardless, I am not in favor of making any appointment.