Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sen. Craig Thomas dies

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyoming, Dick Cheney's replacement in the Senate, died yesterday.

He was 74, and had leukemia. So as these things go, this is not a giant shock. But it moved very rapidly, having been diagnosed just a few months ago.

Thomas was a reliable cog in the conservative Republican machine. Other than the factoid that he was elected to replace Cheney in 1989 after Cheney went to Washington to be Secretary of Defense, politically this is interesting only for the lesson in differing state rules over succession.

In most states, when a senator dies, the governor appoints a replacement, in keeping with the idea that senators represent the states even though they're now directly elected rather than appointed.

Since Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal is a Democrat, that would mean a slight strengthening of Democratic control in the Senate.

However, Wyoming's law is different. The state Republican Party will get to nominate three people to replace him, with Freudenthal doing the choosing from among the three.

I don't think either system is better or worse than the other. Wyoming's puts a premium on maintaining party control of the seat, minimizing partisan bloodletting and disruptions in Congress; other states put a premium on letting the elected state executive choose the best person available. There are strengths and weaknesses to both approaches.

My condolences to Sen. Thomas' family.

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Anonymous Marc Schneider said...

I agree with Wyoming's system. If the voters elect a Republican to the seat, the Democratic governor should not be able to overturn the results of the election. Similarly, I think a member of Congress should not be able to change parties in the middle of the term. If he or she wants to change, resign or wait until the end of the term and then go back to the voters. If you voted for someone as a Democrat, for example, to maintain Democratic control, I think the member has an obligation to respect that.

6/06/2007 9:19 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

A valid view. But it assumes that voters voted for the party rather than the person -- which runs into some logic rocks when you consider that the only time it would be an issue is when the same voters who put a Republican in Congress (for example) put a Democrat into the statehouse. So it would seem that party affiliation wasn't the first criteria for voters.

But it is a transparently fair, "don't rock the boat" option.

As for members switching parties, I agree that it can be a bit of a bait-and-switch on the voters, but again people are supposedly voting for the person, not the party. A member should be able to switch as a matter of conscience -- and have to justify it to his constituents at the next election.

6/06/2007 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An update in this matter that will probably cause the two of you as well as many other Dems some heartburn. One of the people being considered by the Republican party there as a replacement is Lynn Cheney.


6/07/2007 4:28 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

That's pretty funny. Here's a link, BTW.

I think the chances of Mrs. Cheney getting the nod are slim to none, since the GOP has to name three nominees and the choice will be made by the Democratic governor.

Another possible candidate: The U.S. Attorney for Wyoming, who just resigned.

6/07/2007 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would be okay with him as a choice.

But I found your comment interesting about the Democrat governor giving a "slim to none" chance of picking Lynn Cheney. You are admitting the Democrat governor will be playing poltics here. What if she's the most qualified? You'd still support the Dem governor keeping her out because of politics?


6/07/2007 5:09 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

You are admitting the Democrat governor will be playing poltics here.

Well, duh. Just like the GOP will be playing politics with their selection of nominees. Choosing a senator is nothing but politics.

What if she's the most qualified?

What, exactly, qualifies someone to be a senator?

And what about Cheney would make her the most qualified no matter how you measured it? Her degree in English literature? Her resume, which is long on stints at conservative think tanks and short on real jobs? Her time spent as a talk-show host? She has no political experience to speak of.

You'd still support the Dem governor keeping her out because of politics?

Absolutely, assuming the person chosen isn't a complete cretin.

The choice will be made by both sides less on pure qualifications and more on how it will position them to win the seat in 2008. Republicans will try to nominate three strong candidates who will have a chance to keep the seat; the governor will try to choose the weakest of the three (or the one least likely to stand for re-election) to give Democrats a chance to take it.

6/07/2007 5:23 PM  

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