What’s Up in Hastert Country

Jack Roeser of the Family Taxpayers Network, in a letter to the editor:

While this is still unconfirmed by the congressman, credible sources are reporting that U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert may be planning to resign as early as Nov. 6, rather than finishing out his term. If Hastert does step aside early, Gov. Rod Blagojevich would get to pick two special election dates, one for a primary and one for a general election.

The regular Illinois primary has already been moved up to Feb. 5. Not only would two new elections create considerably more confusion, but there would be significant new costs imposed on taxpayers.

None of us should be surprised by these kinds of games.

Games? Roeser seems convinced that someone is trying to manipulate the process to benefit one or another CD-14 candidate, but the rules are clear…

Vacancies in the House [as opposed to the Senate], however, take far longer to fill. The Constitution requires that member of the House be replaced only by an election held in the congressional district of the former representative.

“When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.” — Article I, Section 2, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution

According to the US Constitution and state law, the governor of the state calls for a special election to replace the vacant House seat. The full election-cycle must be followed including political party nominating processes, primary elections and a general election, all held in the congressional district involved. The entire process often takes as long as from three to six months. [Emphasis added.]

So the governor doesn’t just “get to” pick special election dates, he must schedule them and he’s got a 120-day deadline. It’s Hastert who determines whether this comes to pass and therefore whatever benefits particular candidates might get out of an abbreviated campaign. (BTW, here’s your scorecard of who is in the race, who’s not, and who might be tomorrow.) A shortened primary season might help someone who already has an established organization (Chris Lauzen, John Laesch) &/or a candidate who is heavily self-funded and could afford to boost a campaign quickly with hired help (Jim Oberweis, Bill Foster).

Roeser does have a point about the expense of elections. One thing that might be done is to schedule the CD14 primary in December or January with the final CD14 election taking place during the already-scheduled February 5 primary to save taxpayers’ money. However, with Barack Obama on the ballot, it’s not difficult to imagine that the Democratic contender might enjoy an edge in that scenario.