AG Challenges Timing of Senate Election - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 12/31/07

AG Challenges Timing of Senate Election

By Bert Case

When the special election will be held for the United States Senate seat vacated by Trent Lott is source of contention.

Governor Haley Barbour wants it to be held November 4, the same day as the presidential election. He says more people will be at the polls and it would save the state the expense of a separate special election.

"The 17th Amendment (to the U.S. Constitution) gives the power to the executive authority --  that the best interests of Mississippi is that because this vacancy occurs in the year when there is a statewide election, as the statute speaks to, that we should hold the election when the largest number of Mississippians are going to vote," Barbour said at Monday's press conference announcing Roger Wicker as Lott's interim replacement.

"If you go on and read the rest of the 17th Amendment," countered Attorney General Jim Hood, "it provides that the executive shall follow the directives of the legislative branch. In other words, the section that we are interpreting -- that section says you shall have it within a hundred days."

Hood said he will challenge the governor's plan in Hinds County Circuit Court, because the election should take place within 90 days of Wicker's appointment. Hood thinks the election should be held March 11, the date of the presidential primary in this state, and says he will "follow the law."

"We desperately need to get this decided," Hood said. "The people under our constitution have a right to vote. That's why that section is in the Mississippi statues, because it's urgent to have someone who represents us that we voted on. And that's why the 100-day provision is in there, and I think a court will interpret it as that being the intent of the legislature."

The governor says the decision on the election ultimately will be made in the state Supreme Court. Outgoing Secretary of State Eric Clark, a Democrat, has said the governor is right and is justified in holding the election in November of 2008.

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