Democratic Governor Mel Carnahan of Missouri killed in plane crash
Tuesday, October 17, 2000
Governor Carnahan, his son Randy, and an aide were killed in a plane crash Monday evening October 16, 2000.
Governor Carnahan was elected to the Governor's chair in 1992 and re-elected in 1996. Due to term limits, he was unable to run for a third term as governor. Mel Carnahan was running for the Senate seat currently held by Republican Senator John Ashcroft.
Tuesday morning, October 17, 2000, Lieutenant Governor Roger B. Wilson was sworn in as Governor.
Political Implications of Governor Carnahan's passing
A Carnahan victory against Incumbent Republican Senator John Ashcroft was key to the Democrats' plans for regaining control of the United States Senate. Under Missouri law, even though he is dead, Carnahan remains on the ballot. That is, the Democratic Party cannot change the ballot. We are now 3 weeks away from the election and the filing deadline has passed.
Should former Governor Carnahan win the election for the Senate seat, the Missouri governor would appoint a replacement to serve until the next general election. What's unclear is which governor: the Lt. Governor taking the Governor's chair in place of Carnahan, or the governor elect who wins the November election.
Overview - Issues regarding the Missouri Class 1 Senate Seat
The relevant sections of Missouri law regarding
As to the death of a nominated candidate to office
If the late Governor Carnahan were to be "elected" come 7 November over the incumbent Senator John Ashcroft, then- per the last sentence of this statute- a vacancy would exist in the Class 1 Senate seat from Missouri as of the expiration of Ashcroft's term at Noon, 3 January 2001.
A source of the controversy re: WHICH Governor gets to appoint a new Senator to fill the resultant Class 1 vacancy SHOULD the late Governor Carnahan be "elected"...
The second Monday in January in 2001 is 8 January... that is, regardless of who wins the Gubernatorial election on 7 November [the Democrat Bob Holden or the Republican James Talent], he would not take office until 5 days after a vacancy would already exist in the Class 1 Senate seat [assuming, of course, Ashcroft "loses" to the deceased Carnahan]... acting Governor Roger B. Wilson would still legally be the Governor of the State at the time said hypothetical vacancy would occur.
The U.S. Constitution, in the 17th Amendment, reads as follows:
In other words, a Senate vacancy must always- ultimately- be filled by election BUT a state legislature may authorize the Governor of the state to appoint someone to serve until the election to fill said vacancy.
There IS a provision in the Missouri State Constitution (which was adopted in 1875, though this was prior to the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution being adopted in 1913):