The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg may have just given Georgia Democrats a vital reason to consolidate behind a single candidate in the special election for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Republican Kelly Loeffler.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has let it be known that he intends for the GOP-led Senate to vote on a nomination by President Donald Trump to fill the now-vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The only question now appears to be whether the vote will occur before Nov. 3, or during a lame-duck session in late November or December.
This morning, the New York Times had this:
If Mark Kelly, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Arizona, unseats Senator Martha McSally, a Republican who was appointed to her seat and began serving last year, he could be sworn in as early as Nov. 30 — possibly in time to vote on a new Supreme Court nominee, elections experts said.
Michael Jablonski is general counsel emeritus for the Democratic Party of Georgia, and a specialist in campaign election law. According to Jablonski, Georgia law says the much same thing.
In Senate race No. 1, between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Jon Ossoff, even if Ossoff should win, Perdue’s six-year term of office extends into January.
But the race for Loeffler’s seat is a special election. She was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp last December to replace Johnny Isakson. From Jablonski:
Senator Loeffler's appointment is temporary, according to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-542, “until such time as the vacancy shall be filled by an election…." Upon certification of special election results and resolution of any court challenges, then the winner can be sworn immediately.
Here’s the text of the above citation:
“Whenever a vacancy shall occur in the representation of this state in the Senate of the United States, such vacancy shall be filled for the unexpired term by the vote of the electors of the state at a special election to be held at the time of the next November state-wide general election, occurring at least 40 days after the occurrence of such vacancy; and it shall be the duty of the Governor to issue his or her proclamation for such election. Until such time as the vacancy shall be filled by an election as provided in this Code section, the Governor may make a temporary appointment to fill such vacancy."
To accomplish a November takeover of Loeffler’s seat would require Democrats to win a majority vote on Nov. 3. Otherwise, the two highest finishers meet in a runoff on Jan. 5.
Twenty candidates are currently challenging Loeffler, who is in a tug-of-war for GOP base with U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville.
Three Democrats with significant followings are in the contest as well: The Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church; Matt Lieberman, son of the former U.S. Senator from Connecticut; and Ed Tarver of Augusta, a former state senator and former federal prosecutor.
Democratic movers and shakers, including Stacey Abrams, have pushed Warnock’s candidacy. He’s now moving in the polls but is nowhere close to the 50%-plus-one mark.
If Democrats want an extra vote in a potential lame-duck debate over the next lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, that will need to change.