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Filling the Void

Thursday, July 25, 2002 at 5:10 PM

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Vacant Seats in Congress From Ohio - Governor Taft now has a tough call: whether or not to hold an expensive special election to fill a seat - or possibly two - that won't be vacant long. 90.3 WCPN's Bill Rice reports any political fireworks erupting from the situation could be mostly for show.

Bill Rice: 17th district Congressman James Traficant is kicked out for violating house ethics rules; 3rd District Congressman Tony Hall is expected to resign as soon as the Senate approves his nomination to a United Nations post. When a representative leaves before his or her term is up the governor is required, under the U.S. Constitution, to call for a special election. But there’s no requirement, either in the U.S. or Ohio Constitutions, as to when that should occur, according to Jonathan Entin, Professor of Law and Political Science at Case Western Reserve University.

Jonathan Entin: The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the exact date as to when to hold the special election is pretty much left to the governor’s discretion, and it would be very unlikely that any court would second-guess the governor’s decision.

BR: Entin predicts the governor will wait to call a primary in the fall, and hold the general election in November, on the same day as elections for the next congressional term. While it’s tempting to see partisan political motivations in such a decision, Entin says he doesn’t think there’s much to be gained by either party.

JE: We’re now in late July. As a practical matter it’s going to take awhile to get the political machinery up and running. And so an election is not likely to place before Labor Day anyway, at which point the House is likely to be just about ready to call it quits and go home and campaign.

BR: Whenever special elections were to be held, Entin says there would be little political advantage to whoever were to run and win, other than to establish him or herself as a sitting incumbent and perhaps set a better stage for victory in November.

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