Mississippi: AG: Lott Special Should Be in 100 Days, Not Nov.

Posted December 19, 2007 at 6:37pm

A special election to replace Sen. Trent Lott (R) must be held within 100 days of Dec. 18, the day he resigned, according to an opinion released this week by Mississippi’s state attorney general.

The opinion that was delivered by Attorney General Jim Hood (D) conflicts with the plan laid out by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who has argued that regardless of when Lott stepped down a special election would be held in November.

Hood’s opinion lays open the possibility of a court resolving the matter if Barbour remains unconvinced by Hood’s reading of the election statute.

With Lott’s resignation, Barbour has to fill the vacancy via appointment until a special election can take place. The appointee most likely is going to be either Rep. Roger Wicker (R) or retiring Rep. Chip Pickering (R), and either, if selected, then would have an inside edge on winning the special election.

But some political analysts have speculated that an earlier special election could help the Democratic candidate because it would allow less time for the appointee to solidify his or her position in the Senate, and Democrats also may be at a disadvantage if the special election coincides with the presidential election in November.

The Mississippi Democratic Party has challenged Barbour’s special election timing in public statements, but the state’s Democratic secretary of state has agreed with Barbour’s course of action.

Hood’s opinion was delivered to Barbour on Monday, just three days after Democrat Mike Moore, who was considered to be the party’s strongest candidate for the seat, said he would not seek the Senate post. Other Democrats mentioned for the seat are former Govs. Ronnie Musgrove and Ray Mabus and former Rep. Mike Espy.

— John McArdle