Republican lawmakers who pushed for an interim opponent in 2004 and 2006 are now being dubbed hypocrites by the opportunistic Democratic crowd. But the circumstances are very different now than they were in previous years. And that is, we are not discussing a hypothetical vacancy, there actually is a vacancy. Regardless of the decision to change the law in 2004, Democrats on Beacon Hill are forgetting that they took the exact same vote in 2006. Let’s take a look at 2006; Governor Romney had announced he was not seeking re-election, there was no senate vacancy looming and a bill had been filed to grant interim appointment powers to the Governor. That bill was overwhelmingly rejected by Democrats who argued an interim appointment was undemocratic and even unpatriotic!
Here are a few notable quotes from the debate on March 22, 2006 as compiled by State House News Service.
Representative Stephen Tobin
“In 1989 I got elected following the resignation of my predecessor. The Speaker had the ability to call a special election and there was not one. That made the election process a better one for the people of my district. If someone were appointed, they would have had a leg up. So this is a much fairer process. The appointment could be for a variety of reasons. It could be something we would not appreciate. I don't think substitution is warranted.”
Representative Jamie Eldridge
“I served on the committee when we first passed this bill. In my limited experience, I have understood how important the public takes United States senator's votes. People are unhappy about Sen. Kerry giving President Bush the power to go to war, and with votes on the Patriot Act. To come to a decision about which candidate best represents the Commonwealth in Washington D.C. takes some amount of time. Whether or not a governor makes good or bad decisions about appointing someone, the period would be enough time for the public and groups to make their decision about who should represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
The fact of the matter is we’re dealing with a real vacancy right now due to the untimely death of Senator Edward Kennedy. The special election clock is now ticking; candidates must file papers, collect signatures and begin the task of raising money. To change the rules of the game would be indeed be undemocratic. However, Republicans stand by their position that having gubernatorial interim appointment power is in the best interest of the Commonwealth, which is why if the legislation to change the law comes to the floor for debate, we’ll offer the appropriate compromise of changing the law prospectively. That way, no political party is benefiting from yet another change to the law.
Our nation is one of laws, and should the Democratic Majority change this one again, granting Governor Patrick interim appointment rights, they’ll prove yet again the disregard they show for the laws of the Commonwealth.