NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) said to be Trump’s Interior Secretary pick

If news reports are to be believed, Donald Trump is on the verge of naming Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers as his choice for Secretary of the Interior. McMorris Rodgers has represented Eastern Washington in Congress for nearly ten years, having been elected and reelected five times.

Ms. McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking woman in the House Republican leadership, is expected to be announced as Mr. Trump’s secretary of the interior as early as Friday, two people close to the transition efforts said. Ms. McMorris Rodgers comes from Washington, a state with large federal land reserves, and she also had been critical of Mr. Trump at various points during the presidential campaign.

Aides to Mr. Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

McMorris Rodgers would succeed fellow Washingtonian Sally Jewell in that position if nominated and confirmed by the United States Senate. She would also have to give up her seat in Congress, triggering a special election this year in WA-05.

The law on special elections for U.S. Representative is as follows:

  1. Whenever a vacancy occurs in the United States house of representatives or the United States senate from this state, the governor shall order a special election to fill the vacancy.
  2. Within ten days of such vacancy occurring, he or she shall issue a writ of election fixing a date for the [Top Two] at least seventy days after issuance of the writ, and fixing a date for the election at least seventy days after the date of the [Top Two]. If the vacancy is in the office of United States representative, the writ of election shall specify the congressional district that is vacant.
  3. If the vacancy occurs less than eight months before a general election and before the close of the filing period for that general election, the special [Top Two] and special vacancy election must be held in concert with the state [Top Two] and general election in that year.
  4. If the vacancy occurs on or after the first day for filing under RCW 29A.24.050 and on or before the close of the filing period, a special filing period of three normal business days shall be fixed and notice thereof given to all media, including press, radio, and television within the area in which the vacancy election is to be held, to the end that, insofar as possible, all interested persons will be aware of such filing period.
  5. If the vacancy occurs later than the close of the filing period, a special [Top Two] and vacancy election to fill the position shall be held after the next general election but, in any event, no later than the ninetieth day following the general election.

If McMorris Rodgers waited until after March 7th to resign, the special election to fill her seat would be held concurrently with this year’s local elections (the August Top Two and November general). There will be two special election windows in the first half of 2017, with one being in February and the other in April.

Any special election held outside of those already-designated windows would require extra planning on the part of elections officials.

State elections director Lori Augino offered this additional background in an email sent to reporters a few moments ago:

There are 427,853 registered voters in the 5th Congressional District. The counties located within the District are as follows:

  • Asotin
  • Columbia
  • Ferry
  • Garfield
  • Lincoln
  • Pend Oreille
  • Spokane
  • Stevens
  • Walla Walla (partial county)
  • Whitman

If a member of Congress resigns, the vacancy would occur upon the effective date of a resignation submitted by the incumbent to the Governor.

If a vacancy occurs on or before March 7: The Governor may select a date to hold the Special Primary and General Election. He must set those dates within ten days of the vacancy occurring.

The Special [Top Two] must be at least 70 days from the date of setting the election. And, the Special General Election must be at least 70 days after the Special [Top Two] .

If a vacancy occurs after March 7 and before May 19: If the vacancy occurs less than eight months before a general election and before the close of the filing period for that general election, the special [Top Two] and special vacancy election must be held in concert  with the state [Top Two] and general election in that year. The 2017 General Election will be held on November 7. For this provision to be in effect, the vacancy must occur after March 7.

The regular filing period runs from May 15 through May 19, 2017.

If a different election schedule is set by the governor, Secretary Wyman will set the filing period and certify candidates to the Special [Top Two] Election.

Democrats already have at least one declared candidate for McMorris Rodgers’ seat as of this morning: Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart.

“The people of Eastern Washington are tired of a Congress that does nothing but create obstructionism and fodder for political pundits,” said Stuckart in a statement announcing his run. “The people of Eastern Washington are looking for a representative with laser focus ready to grow our economy, protect Medicare and Social Security, tackle our out-of-control national debt, pay more than lip service to our veterans, ensure our farmers and job creators can get their goods to market, and value each person for the freedom, dignity and respect they’re afforded under the Constitution. This is what Eastern Washington values.”

Stuckart has been President of Spokane’s City Council since 2012. He is well known in the Lilac City and around the Inland Empire.

While McMorris Rodgers would likely pursue awful policies if she becomes Secretary of the Interior, she’ll at least be from around here, so when Senator Cantwell and other members of our state’s congressional delegation need to lodge complaints and protests, they’ll be speaking to someone they know.

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