When Governors (Not Blagojevich!) Appoint Themselves To The Senate

On a day filled with eye-rolling and hand-wringing in the aftermath of the arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges, one quote of his from Nov. 5 comes to mind. When asked if he would consider appointing himself to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, Blagojevich said he was "not interested."

Whew. That would have been something.

As it is, the governor still, after all this, retains the power to name Obama's successor. That's why the state Legislature is quickly talking about impeachment, and why Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is proposing that Illinois voters decide who it should be in a special election. And who in their right mind would accept an appointment from Blagojevich in the first place?

But back to the original, now wacko thought ... that Blagojevich might have appointed himself. That was the subject of a Junkie question last month submitted by Rob Rosenberg, a student at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. Shortly after the election, when we knew for sure that Obama's Senate seat would become vacant, Rob asked for examples of self-appointments in the past. The history is not promising.

Under arrest or not, governors who finagled getting themselves appointed to the Senate don't fare very well when they have to face the voters. With one exception, every governor who tried to win favor with the electorate has been defeated.

(For the record, these governors do not exactly appoint themselves; they resign as governor and have their successors name them to the Senate.)

The most recent example occurred in Minnesota, in 1977. After Sen. Walter Mondale (D) ascended to the vice presidency, Wendell Anderson (D) resigned as governor and had his successor, Lt. Gov. Rudy Perpich (D), appoint him to the Senate. At their first opportunity, in 1978, voters let Anderson know what they thought of his maneuver.

By the way, they're still calling that 1978 election the "Minnesota Massacre." Republican Rudy Boschwitz trounced Sen. Anderson in November. Gov. Perpich lost his bid for a full term to GOP Congressman Al Quie. And in the race for the other Senate seat a special election necessitated by the death of Hubert Humphrey the Democrats carved each other up in the primary and the seat went to Republican Dave Durenberger.

Of all the governors who had themselves appointed to the Senate, only one was able to win a subsequent election on his own. Kentucky Gov. Albert B. "Happy" Chandler (D), who came to the Senate in 1939, won in a special election in 1940 and again in 1942. (He resigned his seat in 1945 to become baseball commissioner.)

Here is a list of governors appointed to the Senate and the result of the succeeding election:

Montana, 1933 Sen. Thomas Walsh (D) died. Gov. John Erickson (D) appointed self, lost 1934 primary.

Kentucky, 1939 Sen. Marvel Logan (D) died. Gov. Happy Chandler (D) appointed self, won elections in 1940 and 1942.

Nevada, 1945 Sen. James Scrugham (D) died. Gov. Edward Carville (D) appointed self, lost 1946 primary.

Idaho, 1945 Sen. John Thomas (R) died. Gov. Charles Gossett (D) appointed self, lost 1946 primary.

Wyoming, 1960 Sen.-elect Keith Thomson (R) died. Gov. John J. Hickey (D) appointed self, lost 1962 election.

New Mexico, 1962 Sen. Dennis Chavez (D) died. Gov. Edwin Mechem (R) appointed self, lost 1964 election.

Oklahoma, 1963 Sen. Robert Kerr (D) died. Gov. J. Howard Edmondson (D) appointed self, lost 1964 primary.

South Carolina, 1965 Sen. Olin Johnston (D) died. Gov. Donald Russell (D) appointed self, lost 1966 primary.

Minnesota, 1977 Sen. Walter Mondale (D) elected vice president. Gov. Wendell Anderson (D) appointed self, lost 1978 election.

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