Barbour sets Nov. 4 election to fill seat formerly held by Lott

Published 8:12 pm Friday, December 21, 2007

Gov. Haley Barbour has set a Nov. 4 election to fill the seat formerly held by U.S. Sen. Trent Lott — a move that could prompt a legal fight.

Lott officially resigned Tuesday night with five years left in his current six-year term. He served 16 years in the U.S. House before moving to the Senate in 1988.

The timing of the special election is in dispute. State Attorney General Jim Hood issued a nonbinding opinion this week that the election must be held within 100 days of Republican’s departure.

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“We have a constitutional right to vote for people who represent us. I’ve got a duty to protect that, instead of (voters) having to wait nine months and allow somebody to represent them that they didn’t vote for,” Hood said earlier this week.

Mississippi law states that after receiving official notice of a Senate vacancy, the governor has 10 days to announce an election to fill the seat. That election must be held within 90 days of the announcement, unless the vacancy occurs during a year when “there shall be held a general state or congressional election.”

Hood said the wording of the statute makes clear the vacancy must occur in the same year as a future general election.

In a news release, Barbour said the U.S. Constitution “provides that when a vacancy happens in the representation of any state in the United States Senates, the executive authority of such state shall issue a writ of election to fill such vacancy.”

When asked to respond to Hood’s opinion, Barbour spokesman Pete Smith said: “The governor’s position hasn’t changed.”

Barbour will appoint a successor to serve until next year’s special election, but the governor hasn’t said when that announcement will be made.

The qualifying deadline for the Senate seat is Jan. 11.