When Governors Appoint Themselves To The Senate

As I wrote in an earlier posting today, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's (R) appointment of George LeMieux to the U.S. Senate becomes effective as of Thursday. He could have appointed himself to the seat that Sen. Mel Martinez is vacating, but he chose not to. With good reason.

Here's a question on that subject from Patrick Dora of Seattle, Wash.:

With all the appointed senators currently serving in Congress, I am curious to know if a governor has ever exercised his or her right to appoint himself/herself to a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Yes, and the results were not especially good news for the governor-turned-senator.

Of course, for the record, these governors did not actually appoint themselves; they resigned as governor and had their successors name them to the Senate. But for the most part it served as a self-appointment, and the voters nearly always let their resentment known at the first opportunity.

Two famous examples: After the death of South Carolina Sen. Olin Johnston (D) in 1965, Donald Russell (D) resigned as governor and was appointed to the Senate by his successor, Lt. Gov. Robert McNair. Voters immediately dumped now-Sen. Russell in the 1966 primary. In Minnesota, after Sen. Walter Mondale (D) ascended to the vice presidency, Wendell Anderson (D) resigned as governor and had his successor, Lt. Gov. Rudy Perpich, appoint him to the Senate. Anderson got knocked off in the '78 elections.

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's the complete 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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