Two Senate Seats Open? Watch This Space, by Penny Smith – May 19

We members of the Tribe of the Politically Addicted were greeted this week with the news that Senator Burr is under investigation by the FBI. Apparently not all is forgiven after Senator Burr cashed in some of his Stock Market holdings following a “Behind Closed Doors” briefing about the coming epidemic; made the news about that sale in the wake of a market crash; and then sought a review by the Senate Ethics Committee.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Burr’s cell phone was seized on May 13. A day later we learned that, beginning in March, four US Senators have been under investigation for insider trading. 

A wrinkle in the current dilemma in which Senator Burr finds himself is that his Senate committee charged with investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election issued a bi-partisan report that was at odds with a partisan production by its House counterpart. Burr’s committee found Russian involvement; the Republican majority House Committee did not. Given that our President has found “unacceptable” conclusions that disagree with his world view, it seems unlikely that there will be a Trump rescue card in sight. Mr. Flynn walks, but Burr may not.

If Senator Burr were to resign or be found guilty of a crime, that would leave another North Carolina Senate seat vacant. Now wouldn’t that make for an interesting November? However, the wheels of American justice run slowly and are subject to multiple appeals, so we are likely to be voting for only one senator this November (that would be, of course, Cal Cunningham). Burr may have a difficult time outlasting the investigation, particularly since Trump probably no longer holds him within his inner circle.

Stay tuned.

FYI: According to Section 163-12 of the North Carolina General Statutes, if a vacancy occurs in an United States Senate seat the Governor must appoint a person from the political party that held the seat. The State Executive Committee of that party would present the Governor with a list of three names from which to make his selection. It must submit that list of names within 30 days of the vacancy. The state will then hold a special election for that seat at the next regular election for members of the NC General Assembly, which would be in 2022. The person winning that election would serve whatever time remains on that individual’s term. 

Burr would normally be up for re-election in 2024, although he indicated in the last election that this would be his final term in office. There are a few timing quirks in this process, but that’s basically what would happen.