What Happens in the Event of a Senate Seat Vacancy? - By Greer Clem

With all positive thoughts being sent to Senator John McCain of Arizona and his family, the question now must be asked, what happens in the event that he has to vacate his seat? Why do we have to ask and why so soon after news breaking? Because unfortunately we live in a 24 hour news cycle and under an administration where every single vote matters and political pressure comes from unseen sources. 

So, what happens in the event of a Senate seat vacancy? Ratified in 1913, the 17th Amendment serves as the basic guideline for what to do. The amendment reads: "When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct." But how do we implement this legislation? Basically, when a Senate seat is vacated, it is up to the "chief executor," the governor, of that Senator's state to appoint someone to take that place. That replacement then typically holds office until the next scheduled election, in this case 2018.

As always in American politics, some exceptions do exist. Some states dictate that the appointee must belong to the same party of the departing Senator. Arizona happens to be one of those states, meaning in the event that Senator McCain must vacate his seat, it must be filled by an appointee from the GOP. 

The current governor of Arizona is Republican Doug Ducey, a former businessman who was inaugurated in 2015. It should be noted that Governor Ducey did not make any public remarks about the GOP Healthcare Bill, though McCain reported that he would be meeting with the Governor to discuss how to proceed. Privately, it was reported that Ducey remarked to talk show hosts that the bill needed "lots of work." Ducey did, however, famously condemn Donald Trump after the Billy Bush tape leaked. He had previously endorsed him for President. Since Trump's inauguration, Ducey has pretty much gone along with Trump's agenda, taking the "play it safe" political strategy that has obviously been so successful in American politics. 

So, that's all the basic info. If it comes down to a vacancy, we know it will be a Republican. Who will Ducey nominate and will he feel pressure from the President to nominate a more right-wing candidate than McCain, who has been more moderate than usual post-2016 election? These are the questions that will emerge in the following days, and make no mistake, each answer will have consequences. 


Greer Clem