Barbour stance on Lott successor vote best

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Despite comments to the contrary, the debate over the next fewweeks regarding the legalities of the timing of a special electionto fill the unexpired term of Sen. Trent Lott is being split downparty lines.

Democrats want an election in 90 days and Republicans want aNov. 4, 2008 election date.

Attorney General Jim Hood, who is a Democrat, says there isnothing partisan about his position and says he just wants Gov.Haley Barbour, a Republican, to follow the law. He plans to filesuit against the governor as early as next week to force theissue.

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Barbour says he has executive authority to set an election dateunder both the Mississippi and United States Constitutions.

Reading the Mississippi statute shows it as ambiguous, as onecan make an argument for either side.

Section 23-15-855 says the governor must call an election in 90days unless the vacancy occurs in a year in which there is ageneral election. If so, the statute gives the governor theauthority to set the election date.

Hood and the Democrat Party are crying foul, saying the 2007general elections are in the past – so an election date in 90 daysis in order.

Barbour says regardless of timing, 2007 is still an electionyear and he is following the letter of the law. The governor, ofcourse, will make a temporary appointment to fill the slot until anelection is held.

The common good and common sense tell us that since the law isnot clear, the governor’s position is in the best interest of thestate.

A November special election that is held in conjunction with thepresidential election attracts more voters and allows a wider rangeof voters to make a decision to fill Lott’s seat. A Novemberelection also saves the state money by not having to conduct twoseparate elections – money that can be used in more importantareas.

Republicans may have a slight advantage in November, but a goodstrong Democrat candidate can balance the field. Either way, voterswin.

Barbour’s decision is in Mississippi’s best interest.