“Rep. Kris Wallman, D-Fargo, has resigned and her party has voted to have Gretchen Dobervich fill the remaining two years of her term,” Tu-Uyen Tran reports for the Fargo Forum today.
But Wallman, SAB readers will remember, moved to California some time ago. I wrote about her move back in August. It wasn’t a big secret. She was even writing on social media about it.
So why did the Democrats in Fargo’s District 11 just get around, at the end of October, to replacing a lawmaker who vacated her office and moved to California earlier this year?
It seems likely they didn’t want to trigger a special election in their district which would have allowed the voters to decide who fills that seat.
Here’s a pertinent excerpt from the law covering how absences in the state legislature are filled (you can read the full section here):
Unpacking the legalese, essentially the local district committee for the party the resigning lawmaker belongs to gets to appoint a replacement, except when there are less than 828 days left on the lawmaker’s term.
If there are more than 828 days left of the term (odd-numbered districts like Wallman’s are up again in 2018) the appointee must be confirmed on the next general election ballot. The term for legislative seats in even-numbered districts ends on November 30, 2018. We crossed the 828 days threshold back in August. On the day I first wrote about this, as it happens.
Wallman clearly knew she was moving out of state well in advance of the August 24 deadline to trigger a special election, as evidenced by the fact that she had already moved to California by that date. By delaying her resignation, though, she avoided having her seat go on the ballot this cycle.
That’s too bad. While District 11 is a very liberal part of the state, and while it seems unlikely that a Republican candidate could win an election there, it does give Democrats a political advantage in that they have one less legislative race to fund this cycle when they’re scraping for every campaign dollar and vote they can find.
What Democrats did here isn’t illegal. But for a party that has made a lot of noise about alleged Republican corruption, for a party whose candidates say they’re running against a “good old boys club” in Bismarck, it seems more than a little hypocritical.
UPDATE: The original version of this post referred to Wallman as representing District 16. She actually represents District 11. I’ve fixed the error.