Smith Hill mulls Senate succession

Ian Donnis // Published April 16, 2008 in Providence Phoenix
SENATE SCRAMBLE: The mantra from US Senator Jack Reed, who’s up for reelection this year, is that he’s not about to take a Cabinet position in a Democratic administration. That hasn’t stopped state Senator Paul V. Jabour (D-Providence) from invoking Reed’s name, however, in explaining a legislative effort to change Rhode Island’s process for filling a US Senate vacancy.
As it stands, the governor has the power to fill such empty spots. Legislation sponsored by Jabour and state Representative David Segal (D-Providence) would require that a special election be held to fill US Senate vacancies, unless such a situation happened after July 1 of an election year. The vacancy in that instance would be filled through the normal election cycle.
In a statement, Segal says, “In the last 100 years, 151 US senators have take office without being elected. Incumbency affords great electoral advantages, and it is exceedingly likely that once appointed to office, a senator would readily achieve reelection. The only legitimate vehicle for ascension to a body as powerful as the Senate is popular support — only the passage of this legislation would ensure that the electorate determines its representative.”
Adds Jabour, “Here in Rhode Island, we have legitimate cause for concern about this issue, since Senator Jack Reed is a strong candidate for a Cabinet appointment. If that were to occur, allowing voters to choose a replacement would be a much more democratic avenue than having one chosen solely by the governor. Regardless of whether the governor is a Democrat or a Republican, he or she shouldn’t have the only vote in choosing who will represent our state in the US Senate.”