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What If Fetterman Resigns?
The hospitalization earlier this month of Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), followed by another one for clinical depression, has renewed concern about the lingering effects of a stroke that sidelined him for much of last year’s campaign. With speculation rampant, here’s a look at what might happen if Fetterman has to resign.
If one of Pennsylvania’s Senate seats becomes vacant, Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) will appoint an interim senator. There are no restrictions on who he can appoint. A special election would then occur during the next scheduled general election. (The last time this happened, when Sen. John Heinz died in April 1991, the election was held that November.) There would not be a primary; both parties’ nominees would be selected by their state committees. Whoever wins the special election would serve until the term expires in 2029.
If the election occurs in November 2024, it would cause a “double-barreled” Senate election, where both of a state’s Senate seats are elected at the same time. This is not too uncommon (it happened in Oklahoma in 2022, and is set to happen again in Nebraska next year), but has not happened in Pennsylvania since 1922. Sen. Bob Casey (D) is up for re-election, and considered the favorite in his race. Notably, a state with such an election has not split its ticket since South Carolina elected Strom Thurmond (R) and Ernest Hollings (D) in 1966; the pair went on to serve until 2003 and 2005, respectively.
The most important trait Gov. Shapiro is likely to look for in an appointee is the ability to compete in a general election. The Democrats only have a 51-49 majority and are facing a difficult map in 2024, so they won’t want to make holding Pennsylvania any harder than it has to be. Right-wing Twitter seems to be convinced that Fetterman’s wife, Gisele, is the frontrunner to be appointed, but I don’t believe Shapiro, who has been a pragmatic, mainstream Democrat so far, would risk the seat on a candidate who has never run for office herself and, if anything, is even more of a progressive firebrand than her husband.
Shapiro, will, however, be under pressure to appoint a woman from western Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is one of only five states (the others are Idaho, Indiana, Colorado, and Virginia) that have never had a woman as governor or U.S. senator. In a party driven by identity politics, Shapiro could burnish his legacy by breaking this glass ceiling. Sen. Fetterman is the first western Pennsylvania Democrat to be elected to the Senate since 1940, and the region won’t want to give that up quickly, particularly since Gov. Shapiro is from the Philadelphia suburbs.
With those criteria, three names come to mind. The first is Kathy Dahlkemper, who served a term in Congress (she was voted in with the 2008 wave and out with the 2010 one), then made a comeback by being elected Erie County executive twice. The second is Lindsey Williams, a state senator from the northern Pittsburgh suburbs, about the only area of western Pennsylvania trending toward the Democrats. The third is Chelsa Wagner, an elected judge in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh and its immediate suburbs) who has also served in the state legislature and is from a well-known political family (her father, Jack, served as state auditor general from 2005-13). If regionalism is less of a concern, the choice could be one of a trio of small-city mayors (Wanda Williams of Harrisburg, Danene Sorace of Lancaster, or Paige Cognetti of Scranton), or one of four congresswomen from southeastern Pennsylvania: Susan Wild, Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon, and Chrissy Houlahan. Wild’s district, in the Lehigh Valley, would be difficult for Democrats to hold if she vacates it, but the other three, in the Philadelphia suburbs, would be easier.
On the Republican side, the frontrunner is Dave McCormick, a veteran, Bush administration official, and businessman who came close enough to Dr. Oz in the 2022 primary to force a recount, and who seems to be preparing to challenge Sen. Casey in 2024. If McCormick takes a pass, the next logical choices would be the two Republicans holding statewide row offices: Auditor General Tim DeFoor and Treasurer Stacy Garrity, who have the advantage of winning their offices in 2020 even as Joe Biden carried the state. The lack of a primary, plus disappointment over the 2022 election, might lead the state committee to choose a moderate from the Philadelphia metro area, such as U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, former Rep. Ryan Costello of Chester County, or Jeff Bartos, the 2018 nominee for lieutenant governor and an unsuccessful 2022 Senate candidate. Other potential candidates are U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler or state Sen. Camera Bartolotta of the southern Pittsburgh suburbs; former state Senate President Jake Corman; former Trump administration official and unsuccessful 2022 candidate Carla Sands; state Sens. Dan Laughlin of Erie, or Ryan Aument or Scott Martin of Lancaster County; or state Rep. Martina White, the only Philadelphia Republican in the state legislature.
With a competitive Presidential race, a U.S. Senate race, and vulnerable House incumbents in both parties, Pennsylvania was set to be a critical state in 2024 under any circumstances. The afflictions of her junior senator may add even more fuel to the fire.Published in Elections
My (out of state) impression is that Giselle Fetterwoman is a harpie and unlikely to be widely popular in a closely divided state. And it seems like going on vacation to Canada when he husband is in the hospital with severe depression and still struggling with his stroke is not going to make her a sympathetic candidate.
This post originally said that Gov. Josh Shapiro is from Philadelphia. He is, in fact, from Montgomery County, in the Philadelphia suburbs. I have corrected it, and I apologize for the error.
That’s just the Philadelphia people complaining, they don’t want to be blamed for him.
Not the smart ones, anyway.
Heh. In my defense, I’m from Central Pennsylvania, where “Philly” can refer to anything between Reading and the New Jersey Turnpike.
I always figured it was going to his wife. It is sort of a Democrat thing and she did the work of getting him in. I can tell from personal experience that in the first months / years after a stroke it is your wife that drives you through it back into life.
That sounds like a fine reason for him to increase his life insurance coverage, but not to make her a senator.
But she’s the one who denied him treatment early on (keeping him in the race, that is) when it makes the biggest difference.
He should resign. I hope he does. His wife appeared to be the obvious choice, Biden even congratulated her before the election, declaring she would be a great senator. But her escape to Canada. Oh my!
Lindsey Williams is my current bet. She checks the female box criteria. Conor Lamb has potential.
It would be hard to find someone worse than Fetterman.
Given the state of politics and identity culture prevalent today, they might.
I strongly suspect that he can nominate whoever the heck he wants. Unless Pennsylvania changes how they run elections. Which they won’t.
Pennsylvania is a junk mail ballot state where the entire election apparatus is controlled by the Democrat Party.
In Michigan, Anti-Trump Loser Pete Meijer is considering a run at Debbie Stabenow’s senate seat in 2024. Michigan, like Pennsylvania, a Democrat-run state with a junkmail-based voting system. I also imagine the situation in Philadelphia is similar to the situation in Detroit where a population that barely participates in any other civic activity somehow achieves 100% voting participation (sometimes higher) in monolithic support of the party that happens to control the city government and vote-counting apparatus.
I’m still going with the wife. I can see her appointment with the stipulation she does not run for re-election in 2028. However, I can also see if she does a credible job, the Pennsylvania Dems would remove the stipulation to keep the seat.
And no, I have not started drinking yet . . .
Arguably, if the party thinks the wife helped them get the seat using Fetterman as basically a figurehead, picking her to replace him could be the spoils she has earned.
Georgia has had a female US Senator, but has never had a female governor.
And she looks and dresses like a gangster’s moll.
That is similar to when folks refer to Los Angeles.
I bet Shapiro picks someone line Conor Lamb – he’s better than Fetterman (he can speak clearly). He will not be an independent – he will still be lock-step with whatever Schumer.
That’s an “or”, not an “and”.
Several news aggregator sites I scanned this morning are reporting that Fetterman is “brain dead.” I hope not, but it is a sad way to be used and abused whatever his condition.
She could replace Elvira . . .
What if Fetterman resigns? That would be a tragedy. Fetterman is better than having a horse in the Senate.
Or a horse’s a**?
Suppose the horse is Clever Hans?
Mr. Ed for President! All those opposed say “neigh” . . .
Would the country be better off if Kamala Harris were to resign and be replaced by Fetterman?
Walter Brooks, who wrote the book that inspired Mr. Ed, also wrote the wonderful Freddy the Pig books. One of them is “Wiggins for President.” Mrs. Wiggins ran an excellent campaign and was a very good head of state, in spite of being a cow. She’d have my vote.
Hard to say who’s more articulate . . .
Lori Lightfoot needs a gig …