Democrats have been irate over a bill – HB1181 introduced by Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) – which changes how North Dakota fills vacancies in its U.S. Senate seats. Currently those are filled by gubernatorial appointment. The bill would require a special election.
This makes Democrats angry because Senator Heidi Heitkamp isn’t ruling out a run for governor in 2016, and they want a twofer (Heitkamp in the Governor’s seat and her appointment in the U.S. Senate) if she wins.
To that end they’ve been ranting themselves red in the face about how Republicans are hypocrites because we don’t use a special election to replace vacancies in statewide offices and legislative seats (those are appointed by the governor and the local party district chair, respectively). When the bill came to the floor today I expected to hear more of the same, but bizarrely the always pedantic Rep. Corey Mock (D-Doesn’t Live In His District), in one of his patented and painfully protracted “may I ask the bill carrier a question” moments, focused on a contrast with how we replace U.S. House vacancies.
Mock claims those vacancies are filled by the Governor per our state constitution which states that the Governor can appoint to fill any vacancies in public office where a replacement isn’t otherwise provided for by law. But vacancies in the U.S. House are provided elsewhere in law. Specifically, the U.S. Constitution which requires that House vacancies occurring more than 75 days before a regular election be filled by a special election.
In other words, Mock needs to go back to civics class. And it’s all kind of funny because Mock clearly felt like he’d just dropped a “gotcha” moment on Republicans.
There was less debate on this bill than I expected given how obviously furious Democrats are (see this eventful committee hearing as a case point, not to mention how cheesed off Heidi Heitkamp is about this), but Mock was the only Democrat to rise in opposition to the bill, and as bill carrier Karen Rohr (R-Mandan) noted, nobody showed up in committee to oppose the bill.