Sun. Jun 26th, 2022

Written by Robert Warden

Just when one might have thought that Republicans had run out of ways to tip the system in their favor, they have come up with another one – legislative vacancies.

According to this article by 538’s Nathaniel Rakich, Republican governors are intentionally delaying special elections in Democratic leaning districts in which the incumbent is no longer in office for some reason (https://fivethirtyeight.com/…/why-some-house-districts…/).

Currently, there are 5 vacancies in the House of Representatives. Three of these districts were held by Democrats, namely, Marcia Fudge, Deb Haaland, and Alcee Hastings. Fudge and Haaland have been appointed to the Biden administration’s cabinet, while Alcee Hastings recently died. Note that none of these are “White guys.” They include a Black man, a Black woman, and a Native American woman, all 3 of whom represented Democratic leaning districts and are nearly certain to be replaced by other Democrats. Of these 3 districts, two of them are in states which have a Republican governor – Ohio and Florida. As the article mentions, it is these two vacancies in particular which are being intentionally maintained by Republican governors, for as long as they can delay the special elections to fill these congressional positions.

The other two vacancies are in the districts which were represented by Ron Wright of Texas, and Steve Stivers of Ohio, which are Republican leaning districts in states with Republican governors. Wright died of Covid-19, and a primary has already been run to replace him. Stivers quit being a congressman just 10 days ago, in order to be (rather emblematically of the Republican Party), CEO of Ohio’s Chamber of Commerce. Both of these “White guy” Republicans will probably see their positions filled relatively quickly in order to further minimize the Democrats’ small majority in the House of Representatives.
While electing 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans as legislators at the national level, will not change the balance of power in Washington D.C. much, given the narrow Democratic majority, every vote may be a meaningful one, especially on closely divided issues (which most are given the current high level of partisanship in Congress). Furthermore, Republicans in particular, presumably are using similar tactics in regards to vacant state legislative positions, which can also make some difference potentially during state legislative proceedings.

To be fair, the article points out that California governor Gavin Newsom’s office dragged its feet in holding an election to replace a congressperson from a Republican leaning district last year (waiting until the general election to do so), while holding a special election to replace Democrat Katie, Hill, who resigned after a sex scandal. However, Hill resigned two months before the Republican in question did so. The article also points out that special elections are now taking longer to organize and take place than in the past, as election rules have become more complicated. However, it is clear that the “no holds barred” attitude of Republicans, dating back to the “tea party” movement of 2010, has instigated this phenomenon of delaying special elections as long as possible, and that it is primarily a Republican strategy, which originated within their party.
Furthermore, this strategy seems designed, whether intentionally or not, to decrease representation of minorities and women in legislative bodies, as noted above (especially minorities and women who are Democrats). Thus, it is yet another form of discrimination being perpetrated by Republicans.

All of us – but especially those of us who live in the districts which have vacancies — need to encourage the filling of these positions are promptly as possible. We also need to remember who is responsible for keeping these positions unoccupied, when election time comes around.

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By OEN

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