No Appointment to Fill Zinke’s Seat

Since yesterday’s announcement our Congressman, Rep. Ryan Zinke, was chosen as the nominee for the next Secretary of the Interior, social media has speculated who Gov. Bullock will appoint as his replacement. The answer? No one.

It’s unconstitutional. The U.S. Constitution only gives governors the power to call for new elections to fill vacancies in House seats, but appointing people only applies to the Senate.

There is a state law, passed last year, which gives the governor the power to appoint someone to fill a House or Senate vacancy, but the House part is unconstitutional. Perhaps the legislature should have read their pocket copies of the founding documents before passing that law. It’d be an easy thing for them to fix this session.

In theory, Bullock could still appoint a Republican under state law, forcing the state Republican party to choose their top three contenders, but that person wouldn’t be accepted by the U.S. House, wouldn’t be able to vote, and probably wouldn’t even be given an office. Assuming Zinke is confirmed, his office and staff would keep operating until the vacancy is filled, providing constituent services like information, assistance with government agencies, and tours.

Assuming Zinke’s confirmation is as quick as previous Interior Secretaries, his office would remain vacant until the Spring, and a special election would be held within 85-100 days. Low turnout plus a quick timeline for nominating conventions and an entire campaign means that dark horse candidates would have very difficult time. The likeliest candidates have already made a statewide name for themselves.

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Tyler Evilsizer

Raised in Helena, Tyler's particularly passionate about the environment, transparency, and wonky budget policy. The views expressed are his own.


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  • The 2015 law authorizing a temporary appointment to fill a U.S. House seat was SB-169, by Democrat Bradley Hamlett and Republican Dee Brown. The LAWs website does not link to a legal review note, although surely one was prepared. The bill passed both houses with veto-proof, indeed near unanimous, majorities.

    Surely most legislators knew the U.S. House appointment section was of dubious constitutionality. And most certainly, so did Gov. Steve Bullock, a former attorney general. So why didn’t Bullock veto the bill? Even if his veto were overridden, he would have red-flagged the legislation.

    Our governor and all the legislators who voted for SB-169 have some explaining to do.

  • I suppose I could research this myself but maybe someone has a quick answer. Can third parties — Libertarian, Green, etc. — get on the ballot?

    • Here’s the relevant Montana law:

      Each political party (Democrat, Republican, Libertarian are the three big enough to qualify) submits a nominee 75 days before the election (so 10-25 days after the vacancy, depending when the election is set).

      The law also mentions that independent candidates can file a petition. Since there’s no provision for special election petitions. I’m assuming they’d need to go through the same process as if they were filing for the general election: 14,268 signatures (5% of the total cast for the 2016 House winner). Those signatures would also be due 75 days before the election. Getting 14,000 signatures by early February seems like a high bar for a independent.

  • The Republicans, who are likely to win this election, can afford to nominate someone serving in the legislature, where there’s no shortage of legislators who see a Congressman or Senator when they look into a mirror or a still puddle of water. The Democrats, who need every legislative vote they have, cannot, and may choose to nominate a former legislator as their sacrificial lamb.

      • First, Republicans are more consistent voters. Democratic turnout drops dramatically in primary, off-year, midterm, and special elections.

        Second, last month the only statewide partisan office Democrats won was governor, where the incumbent managed to break 50 percent, but just barely. Under the circumstances, Bullock’s victory was remarkable — but Schweitzer won re-election by a landslide in 2008.

        Third, Democrats got clobbered again in the legislative elections, losing seats in the Senate.

        Fourth, Democrats have not won the Congressional election since 1994, and not with a majority since 1992. Keenan gave it a good try in 2000, but came up short. In 2012, Kim Gillan received 43 percent of the vote; in 2014, John Lewis received 40 percent; in 2016, Denise Juneau, received 41 percent.

        To win this special election, Democrats must find a good candidate, no easy task given the low odds of winning, raise a ton of cash in the blink of an eye and spend it effectively, deliver a cogent and convincing message, and somehow find a way to get their Presidential elections only voters off their butts and into the voting booth. Is is possible that everything could come together? Of course. But I wouldn’t bet so much as a cup of stale coffee that it will happen.

        I don’t think Montana will send another Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives until we get a second House seat — and the only way that’s likely to occur is if Congress expands the House to approximately 680 members.

        • Montana has an unpredictable electorate, IMHO. Independents are nearly 40% of the voting population, and they tend to buck trends: “we just elected a whole bunch of Republicans, let’s toss in a Democrat.”

          And, of course, it depends greatly on who the candidates are. If the Democrats can find a candidate who can appeal to both the Berniecrats and the mainstream Dems, I’d say the Democrats have a shot.

          I’m also trying to figure out who the Republicans might run who would be a strong candidate. I’m guessing Gianforte probably doesn’t have the stomach for another knock-down, drag-out race just months after his defeat. Brad Johnson, Jeff Essmann?

          And there’s the possibility that Trump will ramp up his already nefarious ways, alienating folks who might pull that Republican lever.

          • Unsurprising the Conner continues to live by the adopted adages and learned models. The same can be said of me and other Democrats who believed there would be a sway toward Clinton (no matter what her background) and it would still be a turnout election. That so many people could check a box for Trump (or Gianforte) gives me serious pause. This was the Greg Strandberg Election–noxious childish self-interest for some and just a show of anti-establishmentism for others. I can respect the latter.

            Pete has the right calculation on the what is needed for a candidate going forward. There is a groundswell of desire in the Democratic party to show how much we will turnout against what happened in November. So it does have to be someone who can be both a Sanders-type populist but can talk and appeal to mainstream Democrats who campaigned for Hillary (who was a lot more progressive than she ever got credit for). That a tough needle to thread, especially in Montana. But I think Conner is wrong that this will be a low turnout election on the Democratic side. I think the Republicans are playing with fire here and there is a real chance for Montana to show the nation that we will lead the vanguard against Trump. I look forward to this chance to send a shot across the bow.

            • “There is a groundswell of desire in the Democratic party to show how much we will turnout against what happened in November.”

              My analysis is based on fact, not hope. Desire for a big turnout is one thing, the ability to produce a big turnout is another. At this point, Montana’s Democrats would have a tough time winning an uncontested statewide election for dogcatcher. Our party is in decline and disarray.

              As a Democrat, I’d like to replace Zinke with a Democrat. As a realist, I recognize that for the reasons cited above, that’s not likely to happen.

          • Forty percent independents is BS. Those are self-identified independents, and most are closet partisans. When the closet partisans are smoked out with “do you lean Republican or Democratic?,” the number of true independents drops to perhaps ten percent.

            • You could be right, James, on the 40% independent statistic. I googled like crazy looking for accurate numbers but to no avail. I do remember hearing that figure bandied about from time-to-time.

              Still, one might consider that if 40% of the voters don’t hold a strong allegiance to one party or the other, anything could happen.

              I tend to agree with state Sen. J.P. Pomnichowski when she said in a Billings Gazette interview, “I think people in Montana more often vote the person rather than the party.”

    • Jeebus. This has Neil Livingstone, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Slinky the Barking Seal, Herr Drumpenfurherer, Erick Prince, and Puty’s Putas writ LARGE all over this. Slinky is a frickin’ traitor, as is his lil’ Sparta love buddy, Livingscam. These pukes have done this crap all OVER the world. And they thought that they could get away with it here!

      Sorry, inbred fascist bald headed dufus traitor dudes, but you’ve been outted! BY ME! You’re welcome in advance!

      BTW, WHY would Slinky the Barking Seal want to work for a guy who is freakin’ CRAZY, and actually spent time in a mental hospital? Yup, that’s right. Drumpenfurherer was COMMITTED to a pscho hospital back in the nineties! But that don’t make no never mind to a nazzzzi traitor like Slinky! Hey, Slinky, did you grab some p*ssy today, loser? Oh, just your own! Well, that’s acceptable!!!

      • Jeebus, Slinky! Wow! Slinky has a new book out. It’s a comedy about his “life”. Not sure what it’s called though, something like Masturbator and Commander! But ya gotta wonder why Slinky and his lil’ side kick livingscam are working for a guy like Puty Pute! Slinky would sell out his country for a buck. And I’ll lay your money that some REAL patriotic seals will come out with the truth on this puke!

        Hey, Slinky, did Jesus tell you to grab some p*ssy today? Grab some, Slinky. You gotta stay in Drumpf’s good graces! Slinky, you work for a guy who believes in grabbing some p*ssy! Wear it proudly, seal dink. You make ALL the seals proud of your service to a p*ssy grabber! Hell, it’s in the Constitution, right? (if not, is should be!)

  • Well I think the candidate Pete and Josh want is in plain site a little west of Anaconda in his beautiful home on Georgetown Lake. He is sort of a populist,has appeal to mainstream democrats and even good number of republicans. Boy can he talk and turns out crowd with his branding iron. Besides everyone loves his dog. But I really don’t seeing Brian Schweitzer hanging around with a bunch of wannabes in U.S.House. Also he’ll have all that cash from Stillwater Mine stock that just sold to enjoy. I’m from Eastern Montana and heard Speaker of the House Austin Knudsen may be interested. He fits the Trump mold,has name recognize and could raise money essily. Well we will see if the Montana Democratic Party establishment realize they have a problem and how they address it in this special election

    • Folks urged Schweitzer to run for the more prestigious Senate seat (now held by Daines) and he said “no.” And I’m not sure he would bring the Berniecrats into the fold, DGF, but I think that it’s a moot point.

    • I truly believe Governor Schweitzer wants to run something and doesn’t want to legislate. He will sit and wait for his moment, this isn’t it.

      Where the hell is Jim Elliott when you need him?

      The Montana Democrat Party is the dumpster fire as of now.

  • So what happens now for the Dem primaries? Will someone run against Juneau? Who would run against Juneau? Will Juneau run? That’s probably a stupid question. hehe Who will step up for the Republicans?

    • Not sure what you mean by “primaries,” Bill. If you’re talking about this special election, there are no primaries. Democratic Party officials will hold a special convention to nominate its candidate for Zinke’s seat. Any Democrat can submit their name to be considered as a candidate. The person getting the most votes wins. Democrats voting in this special convention are basically party leaders, central committee chairs and vice-chairs, various elected officials, etc. You can find the rules here:

      I imagine Republicans have a similar system.

    • It’s in the eye of the beholder, I believe, James. I had a hard time reading the old blue format we had and find the yellow is easier on the eyes.

      Anyway, Don is the administrator of this site and he’s on the way to Turkey, although I heard that Delta may have him sitting on his derriere in one of their hubs. This computer neophyte will see what he can do, though.

  • Another day, another dirty trick, another coup! Hmm. Whom do you suppose did this one? Slinky? And his lil’ bald headed buddy? He claims to have done eighteen such coups around the world. And then, they claim that they can burnish the turd! Yep, then they make brutal tyrants look like nice guys! We’ll se what they can do with the Drumpenfuhrer. With the help of papers like the GF Spitoon, they’re already trying! Yep, Drumpenfurhrer is just are regular joe!………………joe stalin!

    • Oh my God! It’s gonna be yuuuge-er than I thought possible! And for the closing act, I heard that Slinky the Barking Seal was gonna wax and polish the chrome dome of his lil’ “own CIA” buddy, neil livingscam, to prove once and for all that he really DOES know sh*t from shinola! I can’t wait! No wonder the fraudster Zinkenshizer decided to re-up with the Drumpfster! It’s like he’s coming home again…………on the government’s dime illegally! Hey, who better to run the Interior Dept. for a guy like Lord Cheeto than a big time fraudster? And really, when you think about it, ALL of Drumpf’s picks are either fraudsters, mobsters, or billionaires! Ain’t that America?!

  • Yeah baby! Everyone luvs a parade, an INBRED parade! And what a bunch of specimens it will be! I mean, just LOOK at this guy’s picture. Do you not see the supremacy of his whiteness written all over that dude’s face? Yup, he’s a specimen alright, a regular STOOL sample of the altreich! Zinke’s people! A super dooper pooper sample of manliness! Dee master race!

    Hey, Slinky, you still meeting with that racist general dude on a regular basis???

    • A leetle more on Slinky. He AIN’T what he says he is.

      Drumpf is a con man, and Slinky is a fraudster! A match made in heaven! For ya see, once you’ve proven that you’re a thief and willing to STEAL from the folks paying your salary, you can NEVER live that down! No matter what!

      Slinky sold his honor for a few pieces of silver. (and TARNISHED the image of the Seals!) That’s how he got his silver star. No, it wasn’t for bravery. If was for sellin’ out our country for a few pieces of silver! And once a dude does that, he’s simply a POS in my book! For there is NO honor among thieves. Right Slinky? You sold out once, and you’ll do it again! Count on it!

      Look, I too was in the military looong before Slinky went in. And sure, we stole stuff we needed, like a jeep now and then. Or maybe supplies and chow. But what we DIDN’T do was steal money from the government. Nope. That takes a special kind of slime ball. A guy like Slinky!

      • Jeebus. The charges against Slinky are very serious. My hope is that the other navy seals who know all the details about Slinky’s crimes come forward before he appears before the senate for confirmation. They need to do their duty one more time for the country. We can’t let slime balls get a free pass simply because they served, especially when they’re placed in positions of power. Slinky is a venal, lying, stealing fraudster! And NOT a good fit to head the Interior Dept. He knew he was stealing from all of us, but he did it anyway. Repeatedly! Guess that he thought if he was stealing from us, it was OK.

        Read the entire article on Slinky at the Intercept. It’s a very good news source. Many good articles there related to that other creep Erick Prince.

  • Jesus. Just Jesus. I hadn’t realized that it was Mad Dog Mattis who was in charge of the Battle of Fallujah. If you’re not familiar with that war crime, do some research. Yes, it was an horrific war crime perpetrated by the United States military. And for what? Nothing! The entire world knows it was a war crime. Yet Drumpf has appointed mattis as Sec. of Defense. What the hell does THAT tell you?

    And fraudster Zinkenshizer claims that we need to amend the rules of engagement. Oh yes, what more can we DO than slaughter civilians at will? What does Zinkenshizer have in mind? He’s an idiot.

    Someone in the press or in the senate needs to ask ol’ Mad Dogturd Zlinke just WHAT more could have been done during the massacre of Fallujah! I mean, when you surround the city, block all exits, and just start massacring civilians, THAT is ’bout as unregulated as it gets! What more impediment could there be that Zinkenshizer sees?

    The British were originally in Fallujah and had NO problem maintaining peace. But when mattis went in, it was a slaughter! Yes boys and girls, your great country committed a war crime by slaughtering an entire city!

    And THIS is the POS Drumpf wants to appoint? Time to do your homework. It’s gettin’ real scary out there. I want MY country back, when we didn’t appoint war criminals as Sec. of Defense, nor lying stealin’ thieves to the Dept. of Interior! Gonna be a long four years, IF we live that long!

  • Too funny. The Koch brothers finally won. And all them inbred deplorables are soon gonna find out just exactly what that means. It means that they comin’ to steal anything that’s left. Benghazi! Was it worth it, deplorables? When the Koch brothers say they’re gonna take their country back, they really mean it……..FROM YOU!

    The dumbazz vets who voted for Drumpf are like a box of chocolates. Gumpian stupidity!……..just like Zinkenshizer! Heroes, meet Ayn Rand! She loved stupid people too!

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