Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When does Meehan want to be replaced?

Now that the worst-kept secret in Massachusetts politics--Marty Meehan's hiring as chancellor of UMass-Lowell-- is finally a reality, the next big question is: When will the special election to replace him be held?

Ore more specifically, when does Congressman Meehan want the election held? Does Congressman Meehan have a candidate he would like to succeed him? If so is he willing to use his power to determine the date of the election to the advantage of his proposed successor?

Because of the way the law is written, Meehan can essentially decide for himself when the election will be held. The law says that the governor must call the election for a date between 145 and 160 days after Congressman Meehan submits his resignation. Not the date his resignation is effective. That is key: the clock starts ticking the day Meehan officially delivers his letter of resignation.

I believe Meehan should wait until June 1 to officially resign.

If the congressman resigns on (or around) June 1, Governor Patrick could call the election for November 6, which would be the traditional "first Tuesday of November" election day. Because most of us are used to going to vote on that day, a November 6 election would probably garner the highest turnout. That would also put the primary September 25, just a week later than a regularly scheduled primary would be held.

There is a significant drawback to waiting until the first of June to announce: the fifth district would be unrepresented from July 1 until the middle of November.

Representative Meehan could conceivably announce his resignation as early as tomorrow, which would put the election in the first couple of weeks of August. The advantage of an early representation is that the district would only go a month or two without a representative, and late Summer is usually a pretty slow time in Washington, so they might not miss much.

But who is going to come out to vote in August? Or maybe more importantly, who will turn out to vote in a primary held between the end of school and the fourth of July? Turnout is low in a primary under normal circumstances, but holding one when many people are headed out on vacation would depress turnout even further.

The question then becomes, does Meehan want an early election, which would benefit a candidate with a strong organization, support among hardcore party members, and/or a lot of cash on hand? Or is his man (or woman) someone who would benefit from time to raise money and campaign, or from broader support because of high name recognition or moderate positions?
I don't know. Perhaps Meehan won't consider politics at all in his decision, and do what he thinks is best for the district. But I expect he'll choose a date that best helps him choose his successor.

UPDATE: It looks like Meehan is thinking earlier rather than later.

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