Agreeing with Mark on Judd Gregg’s replacement

Justice as well as politics are on the side of a Democratic replacement for Senator Gregg, should the seat become vacant.

I agree with Mark that the best outcome for the country is that Judd Gregg’s replacement (if there is to be one) should be a Democrat — preferably the one with the best chance of being elected in 2010. I am also surprised at how convinced I am by his hypothetical “what if the shoe were on the other foot” argument that no Republican governor would appoint a Democrat in this circumstance.

But it’s worth reflecting for a moment on why others might think there would be a call on Governor Lynch to appoint a Republican, and the moral force of such considerations and arguments on the other side.

First, there are reports that Lynch and Gregg are friendly, and so the governor may feel some push to ease Gregg’s way by not making his departure change the complexion of his seat. I would say that Lynch is bound by his oath of office to do what is best for the citizens of New Hampshire in any official act as governor, including appointing Gregg’s replacement, and so considerations of friendship should not govern his decision.

Second, what of the argument that New Hampshire voters, in electing Gregg, elected a Republican to a six year term in the Senate. This deserves some consideration, except it is difficult to know to what extent NH voters were supporting Gregg personally and to what extent they wanted a Republican. Moreover, conditions in the country have so changed since Gregg was elected that the 2008 election, in which NH voters elected Democrat Jeanne Shaheen to the Senate, is a better indication of the electorate’s views (reversing their decision of six years previously, when they elected John Sununu over Ms. Shaheen). The Republican party has no property right to a Senate seat.

Third, what’s best for NH in terms of influence? Clearly having a Senator of the majority party would be better. When Gregg was last elected, he was in the majority with a President of his party. Perhaps NH voters really wanted their senator to fit this description, in which case Lynch would be wrong to appoint a Republican.

Fourth, whatever the party of the appointee, should it be a placeholder or someone who will be a candidate in 2010? Other things equal, the state will be better served if the Senator appointed now wins in 2010 — that person will have more experience and seniority than someone starting new at that time. Also a lame duck is not subject to the incentives that come from running for reelection. This also argues for appointing a Democrat, because Lynch can hardly want to appoint a winning Republican. Appointing a weak Republican who tried to run for election would win him no Republican or Democratic friends. So this reasoning again leads to appointing a Democrat who will run and win in 2010.

Fifth, Despite the general argument against appointing a placeholder who won’t run in 2010, what if the constellation of NH political personalities is such that there is no clear favorite and Lynch believes it best to let the voters decide fresh in 2010? (Perhaps Lynch has Senatorial ambitions himself). In that case is there any logic for appointing a Republican over a Democrat? I don’t see any. Politically, Lynch probably can get credit for not using the Gregg departure for partisan advantage by the mere fact of appointing a placeholder rather than giving an appointed Democrat a leg-up on 2010.

So I agree with Mark’s conclusion, and also I think that Lynch should have little trouble justifying this course of action as the right thing to do, morally as well as politically.