Monday, 16 December 2002

Who would Musgrove appoint?

If Trent Lott does make good on his supposed threat to quit the Senate if he's forced out, who would Ronnie Musgrove appoint in his place?

The pickings are pretty slim, at least in terms of nationally-recognizable names:

  • Mike Espy, the former congressman from the Delta (and ex-Ag Secretary under Clinton) would be a possibility; however, his past legal troubles might be problematic. But appointing an African-American would be a good way to shoot the bird at Trent Lott and his pals.

  • U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-2nd): Unlike Mike Espy, however, he's a bit of a lightweight. But he's African-American, which means at least he'd probably not defect to the Republicans when he got to the Senate, and the special election for his House seat would probably be won handily by the Democrats.

  • U.S. Rep. Ronnie Shows, who's out of a job come January, might be a sensible choice. He's reasonably popular, but lost a race against fellow incumbent Chip Pickering by a wider-than-expected margin. If I had to say anyone, I'd pick Shows.

  • U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-4th): Taylor is a hardcore conserative Democrat (one of four to vote for Clinton's impeachment); he's probably been courted by the GOP to switch for years, and the chance to do so in the Senate might be tempting. Plus, appointing Taylor would open the House seat up; it's unclear if a Democrat could keep the seat.

  • State attorney general Mike Moore: Best known for his tobacco lawsuit (and subsequent enrichment of college roommate Dickie Scruggs), Moore is believed to have ambitions for higher office, and has won statewide elections in the past as a Democrat. Relatively unlikely to jump ship. Probably #2 behind Shows.

  • Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat: Sort of a dark horse candidate. Probably a Democrat, but nobody's really all that sure. Being a part of a legendary Ole Miss football team (and the Redskins) gives him the benefit of the Jack Kemp factor.

  • Finally, my out-of-left-field suggestion: Morgan Freeman. Believed to be fairly conservative, but still has the “cool factor” of wearing an earring (something none of these other candidates share).

I don't know that any of these names are on the “short list”, or even if it's time for a short list.

It's also possible a deal could be made: Lott promises not to run for governor against Musgrove if Musgrove appoints a Republican in his place. And the perfect Republican for the job: everyone's favorite district court judge, Chip Pickering's dad, none other than the widely-vilified-outside-the-state Charles Pickering. Now that, my friends, would be good politics.

Jonah Goldberg notes that Mississippi Code Section 25-15-855 requires a special election to replace any departing U.S. Senator; a Musgrove appointee would have to face the voters either in early 2003 (if Lott resigns by the end of 2002) or November 2003 (if Lott resigns in January). That strongly indicates in favor of appointing a Democrat who could win a special election from a standing start, again favoring either Shows or Moore (and perhaps favoring Moore to a greater extent; Shows isn't as well-known state-wide).