The potshots have already started toward the North Dakota Republican Party accusing them of running scared of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and rightfully so.
The topic is not only being discussed in North Dakota, across the nation political blogs and editorial pages all are taking shots at the North Dakota GOP after recent news broke that Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, plans to introduce a bill removing the governor's right to appoint a U.S. senator to office should a current U.S. senator leave office outside of a normal election period.
Streyle has indicated that the possibility Heitkamp might run in 2016 for governor and potentially win was "on my mind" while drafting the bill.
In a state so dominated by Republican leaning voters (all 12 partisan state officers are GOP; Senate 70 percent GOP; House 75 percent GOP; holding the governor's office since 1992) we are wondering why they have so little trust in those voters that they would need to bow to such an obvious partisan tactic.
People are also reading…
Heitkamp has indicated that she has no plans at this time to run for governor in 2016. If she were to run a victory is far from certain in a Republican dominated state.
All indications are that if Gov. Jack Dalrymple seeks another term it's unlikely that Heitkamp would challenge him anyway. Were Dalrymple to be re-elected in 2016 and a vacancy occur in one of our U.S. Senatorial positions passage of this bill would backfire as Dalrymple's ability to appoint a Republican replacement would no longer exist.
We decided to see if North Dakota is unusual in that we allow the sitting governor to appoint a replacement during a U.S. Senate vacancy occurring between normal elections. To the contrary, we join 36 other states that fill vacancies in this manner.
The next question we asked ourselves was whether other states had considered changing how they choose their senator in similar situations.
A search of the National Conference of State Legislatures website (ncsl.org) listed the following results for recent legislative actions:
- In 2012, five states considered but did not pass legislation dealing with U.S. Senate vacancies.
- In 2011, three states considered but did not pass legislation dealing with U.S. Senate vacancies.
- In 2010, seven states considered legislation to change the way vacancies in the U.S. Senate are filled; none of that legislation passed.
- In 2009, 12 of the states that permit the governor to fill U.S. Senate vacancies by appointment considered legislation to take away that authority and require a special election instead. Only Connecticut and Rhode Island passed legislation along these lines; in Colorado, Maryland, Missouri and North Carolina the bills failed to pass. In Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the bills carried over to the 2010 legislative sessions and all of those states currently fill vacancies via governor appointment.
- In 2008, bills addressing U.S. Senate vacancies were introduced but failed to pass in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island. In Kansas, the Legislature passed a bill removing the governor's authority to make an appointment to fill a vacancy in the office of U.S. senator, but it was vetoed by the governor.
It's pretty obvious by the attempts across the U.S. to pass similar legislation that this is not an issue resonating with the citizenry.
North Dakotans are an obstinate bunch and we don't like being told what we have to do. In fact, we often go out of our way to do the opposite just to show that we can think for ourselves. The passage of this bill might just backfire on the Republicans.
If this change really is something that will serve the needs of our state beyond 2016, then how about Streyle amends his bill to ask that it be put on the ballot in 2016? At least we would then let the voters of North Dakota decide if they want the change.