Chip Rogers made news this week by announcing he was resigning his recently re-won Senate seat to take a job at Georgia Public Broadcasting. A special election for the seat will be held Jan. 8, just two months after Rogers’ replacement could have been elected in the general election had he stepped down earlier. Channel 2 Action News reports the special election will cost Cherokee and Fulton counties $500,000.
Should politicians who resign early help cover the cost of special elections?
Total Voters: 435
But that’s not all. Rep. Sean Jerguson, who like Rogers hails from Cherokee County, is resigning his House seat to run for the Senate post. So there will be a special election the same day to refill that seat. The two seats do not exactly overlap, so there will be some additional cost to Cherokee to hold a special election in the non-overlapping precincts.
And, for good measure, Sen. John Bulloch of Ochlocknee also announced this week he was stepping down before the 2013 legislative session starts, prompting a third special election that day in the eight southwest Georgia counties Bulloch served. (Well, it’s the third so far; it’s not out of the question that a House member could resign to run for that Senate seat and cause a fourth special election.)
Which raises a question: Should taxpayers get some help in covering the cost of special elections when politicians resign their offices early — from the politicians themselves? With the special election for Rogers’ seat alone costing $500,000, we surely are talking about millions of dollars in extra expenses for counties over the past two years.
By my count, these three special elections will bring the total since Jan. 1, 2011, to 17 (that figure is for state-level offices only; there may have been more if local races were included). One of those, the race for Senate District 30, was held on the same day as this year’s general election and thus didn’t represent an additional cost to the affected counties. But it, like eight of the other special elections, wasn’t settled without a runoff — representing even more costs to counties.
Two of the past 17 special elections were required because the elected official died in office; not much one can do about that. But eight of them were because the elected official took a job in state government; four elected officials resigned to run for another office; two moved out of their districts; and one (Bulloch) retired.
In some cases, the politicians resigned their offices left without no campaign funds left in their accounts or a negligible account. But a few of them had at least $10,000 in their accounts. Rogers ($231,033) and Bulloch ($105,967) had much more than that as of the latest report filed. To be fair, both of those reports were filed before the Nov. 6 election and may not reflect their final expenses; on the other hand, neither of them had general-election opponents, so it’s unlikely that they spent huge chunks of their war chests.
Should elected officials who resign their offices and prompt special elections be required to give their remaining campaign funds to counties to help cover the cost of those elections? That’s this week’s Poll Position question. Answer in the nearby poll and the comments thread below.
– By Kyle Wingfield