Why there has to be a special election — not an appointment — for Trey Radel’s seat

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As soon as news broke that Trey Radel was resigning from Congress, speculation about who might replace him kicked into high gear. Once Radel’s resignation is official, it’s up to Gov. Rick Scott to schedule a special election for Radel’s seat.

Why a special election instead of a gubernatorial appointment, especially since by the time a special election is concluded, the winner will likely have to turn around and run for “re-election” a few months later?

The answer is simple: the Constitution requires that member of the House be replaced only by an election held in the congressional district of the former representative.

“When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.” — Article I, Section 2, Clause 4 of the U.S. Constitution

According to the Constitution and state law, the governor calls for a special election to replace the vacant House seat. The full election-cycle must be followed including political party nominating processes, primary elections and a general election, all held in the congressional district involved. The entire process often takes as long as from three to six months.

While a House seat is vacant, the office of the former representative remains open, its staff operating under the supervision of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The people of the affected congressional district do not have voting representation in the House during the vacancy period. They can, however, continue to contact former representative’s interim office for assistance with a limited range of services defined by the Clerk of the House.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.