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Monday, March 27

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« Here's Why The Republicans Like Where Burris Is Special Election in IL-05 Defies Conventional Wisdom »

Special Election IL05 Thu Feb 26 2009

Geoghegan Files Suit for Special Senate Election

Today, IL-05 Congressional candidate Tom Geoghegan filed a lawsuit against Governor Pat Quinn, claiming Quinn has failed to uphold the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I could parse the suit and bore you to tears, or you can check out the complaint yourself here (PDF).

It's an interesting strategy for Geoghegan to go after Quinn on reform. It's debatable whether Quinn should lose his street cred as a reformer just yet. The newly sworn in Quinn has only just started to make heads or tails of the mess left by everyone's favorite impeached, potty-mouthed Elvis fan. Should Quinn really be spending his time and political capital throwing out Burris and forcing a special election when the primary is just under fourteen months away? Should this be a top priority while our state is basically on the verge of shutting down?

Certainly, if Geoghegan is successful in forcing special elections for appointments permanently, the people of Illinois are better off. But I wonder if this leaves Geoghegan better off politically? Will voters in IL-05 see this as an attack on Quinn? Will the five billion other IL-05 candidates jump in on this issue and accuse Geoghegan of attacking Quinn?

And the biggest question of all: Do voters in IL-05 even care? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

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Jeff Smith / February 26, 2009 8:29 PM

I was coming out of federal court this morning and saw the press conference, didn't stop to watch it, had other business. I had to read the complaint, pause and consider whether this was brilliant or stupid.

OK, now I've done that. And the answer: it's not brilliant. For a smart lawyer, it's a legal move I don't get. Whether it helps Tom politically, I can't say. Maybe. But if so, it's a pretty cynical ploy.

The question of whether we could even have a special election at this point is sufficiently uncertain that Lisa Madigan had to issue an AG's opinion on it. The complaint focuses on the first clause of the 17th Amendment and slides by the 2nd clause which says that any state legislature can empower a governor to make appointments, and that the appointee gets to serve until the next election as the legislature directs.

So Quinn doesn't even have the power to call one, because the legislature has directed in Illinois that the appointee serves until the next regularly-scheduled congressional election. The lawsuit is trying to force Quinn to do something he doesn't even have the legal power to do right now.

Half the states in the country do it pretty much exactly like Illinois does. There is nothing unconstitutional about it. Paragraph 20 of the lawsuit, contending that a special election was intended by those who passed the amendment to require a special election at the earliest opportunity, is just fiction. I don't think there's anything in the debate on the amendment -- which took almost five years to pass -- to support that at all.

A legislature should not be able to make up new rules after every appointment, in essence giving the legislature veto power. The intent of the amendment was to take power away from legislatures, which had been corrupt in their dealmaking as to how senators got chosen.

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