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Nixon Calls Special Elections For Vacant House Seats

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
The Missouri House of Representatives chambers during Gov. Jay Nixon's State of the State Address on Jan. 19, 2011. The House debated upon and passed the state's budget for next year yesterday.

Gov. Jay Nixon has called special elections for three vacant seats in the Missouri House. 

Nixon scheduled elections on Aug. 5 for the 67th, 120th and 151st House districts. The north St. Louis County-based 67th District became vacant after state Rep. Steve Webb, D-Florissant, resigned after he was charged with campaign finance-related violations.

The 151st House district became vacant when state Rep. Dennis Fowler, R-Advance, was appointed to the Board of Probation and Parole. The 120th District has been open since June after Jason Smith, R-Salem, was elected to the 8th District congressional seat.

Republicans have been dissatisfied with Nixon's speed -- or lack of it -- in calling special elections. In addition to legislation to prompt a governor to call special elections within 30 days, a Washington state-based attorney filed a lawsuit to try and force Nixon to call special elections.

Nixon’s decision means that all of the House’s vacancies will be filled by the General Assembly’s veto session. That’s good news for Republicans, since they’ll likely have 110 members if there are no more vacancies before the September session. (Conversely, the Aug. 5 elections also mean that the seats won’t be filled until after the General Assembly adjourns in May.)

It could also present an electoral curiosity: Aug. 5 is the same day as Missouri’s primary, which means voters in those districts will presumably vote in two separate races. For the special elections, voters will choose among nominees picked by party committees. At the same time, they’ll also vote in primary elections to determine nominees in the general election.

That presents the possibility that the person who prevails in a special election could lose in a primary. And that means the special election winner would only serve a few months in the legislature before making way for the general election's victor.

Still unresolved is whether Nixon will call a special election to fill the 22nd Senate District seat in Jefferson County. It became vacant after the governor appointed Democrat Ryan McKenna as the head of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.  

Asked if the governor had made a decision on whether to call a special election for that seat, Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said in an e-mail “these are the only ones being announced today.”

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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