Senate appointees everywhere!
The news that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) will appoint a senator to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) means that seven appointees will have served in the 111th Congress -- the largest number in more than six decades.
Manchin's appointee -- and he and his team are keeping the timing and identity of the pick very quiett at the moment -- will join five other sitting Senate appointees. Four of those -- Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.) and Ted Kaufmann (D-Del.) -- were selected to replace senators who joined the new administration (including President Obama and Vice President Biden).
The other current Senate appointee, Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.), was tapped by his former boss, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I), to replace former Sen. Mel Martinez (R) after Martinez resigned last summer to take a lobbying job.
One more appointed senator served briefly during the 111th: former Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.). Kirk, a longtime confidant of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), was selected by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to fill Kennedy's seat from late September until the January special election. Kirk had promised not to run in the special; that race, of course, was won by Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
The last Congress to have seven appointed senators was the 87th (1961-1962), according to Senate records.
Since the 102nd Congress (1991-1992) at most two appointed senators have served at the same time. (Worth noting: the 79th Congress holds the record for the highest number of appointees; 13 appointed senators served from 1945 to 1946.)
The high number of unelected Senators coupled with a very volatile electoral environment have combined to create a wild ride for appointees so far cycle.
Of the four Democratic appointees tapped to fill seats left vacant by those who joined the Obama administration only Gillibrand appears to have an entirely firm hold on her seat -- and that comes after months of primary opponents getting in and out of the race.
The well-funded Bennet is favored to emerge intact from his primary against former Colorado state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) -- although Romanoff won a high profile endorsement from former President Bill Clinton Tuesday. Bennet won't be out of the electoral woods even if he wins the primary, however, as he will face either Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R) or former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton (R) in the general election.
And, in the two states where Democratic appointees are not running for re-election -- Illinois and Delaware -- the party's prospects of holding the seats are anything but certain; the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Illinois as a toss-up and Delaware as likely Republican.
Even in the case of LeMieux things have not gone according to plan. What was once supposed to be a sure thing win for Crist is now a toss-up thanks to a barrage of unexpected turns including former state House Speaker Marco Rubio's (R) upstart bid, Crist's party switch -- he is running as an independent -- and Rep. Kendrick Meek's (D-Fla.) own primary challenge from billionaire Jeff Greene (D).
The volatility and electoral uncertainty surrounding this latest crop of appointments stands in contrast to other recent Senate appointments: six of the previous seven appointees who ran for a full term were elected. (The lone exception was Missouri Sen. Jean Carnahan in 2002.)
Voters, frustrated with how Washington works (or doesn't) and fed up with politics as usual, seem to be in more of a throw the bums out mood this election than in cycles past. And, that bodes poorly for appointed Senators to keep the recent streak of victories in tact.
-- Felicia Sonmez
June 30, 2010; 10:42 AM ET
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