Progressives working to create the Brand New Congress should pay close attention to the thin silver lining in Trump’s nominations of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Representative Mike Pompeo for director of the CIA. The seats of these fiercely conservative lawmakers will be up for grabs much earlier than they otherwise would have been. When a lawmaker in Congress is appointed by the president to another position, his or her seat becomes vacant, and it has to be filled. States have various ways of filling these seats, but for Progressives hoping to gain more legislative seats, Sessions and Pompeo’s states have fairly favorable rules.
Sen. Sessions of Alabama was named by Trump as nominee to lead the justice department as Attorney General to replace Loretta Lynch. By now, most people interested in politics are aware that Sen. Sessions was rejected from a federal judge position in 1986 because someone testified that Sessions said that the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot” and that he was heard calling a black attorney “boy,” which he denied.
If Trump’s nomination is approved, the thin silver lining is that Sessions’ legislative seat in the U.S. Senate will be up for grabs. Sessions was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996 and continued to be re-elected. Sessions was most recently re-elected in 2014. He was set to serve until at least 2020.
Sessions holds a great deal of power in the Senate. He is a senior member of the Judiciary Committee and the Chairman of the Immigration and the National Interest subcommittee. He also serves on the Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts and the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. Sessions is on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and the Senate Budget Committee.
“If Sessions heads to the Trump administration, he would leave behind a coveted seat in the United States Senate. Governor Bentley would appoint Sessions’ replacement in the short-term and set a date for a statewide election to fill the seat,” Cameron Smith wrote for AL.com. “So whom might Bentley appoint if Sessions departs? Several sources I’ve spoken with suggest a few names on an emerging short list: Representative Martha Roby, Attorney General Luther Strange, state senator Trip Pittman, and state senator Cam Ward.”
After the short-term appointment by Alabama’s governor, there would be a statewide election to fill his spot. This is a chance for Progressives across the nation to focus their attention, money and time on getting an electable candidate who will fight for most of the values Progressives share in that seat.
It’s not that out of reach to believe that it’s possible that a red state could choose a Progressive candidate, if Progressives worked hard enough. Progressive ideals are appealing to many conservatives. For example, Jack Bernard, a former Republican party county chair in the south, is a Medicare for All advocate. He wrote the strikingly progressive piece from the tweet above featured in AL.com. Most Americans want a single-payer healthcare system, including 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, according to Washington Post. There is even an organization called Republicans for Single-Payer, according to Healthcare-Now.
Though most people back single-payer healthcare, not all Democratic candidates do. It just so happens that in Alabama, there is an electable Democratic candidate that would like to fill the vacancy created by Sessions’ appointment, and he advocates for single-payer healthcare.
Ron Crumpton announced Friday that he will be seeking Sessions’ senate seat. Crumpton pledges to fight to make college more affordable, to end private prisons, to re-schedule marijuana, to invest in infrastructure, and to break up the big banks.
Some of the Conservatives in Alabama, where pro-life is a major issue, might find it easier to back him because he does want to work to end abortions. However, he says that “making the act of having an abortion a crime does not advance that goal, it puts the lives of women in jeopardy and violates the rights guaranteed to all Americans under the United States Constitution.” Similarly, he might appeal to Conservatives in Alabama because he said, “The right to self-protection is supreme. Taking guns from law-abiding citizens benefits criminals and jeopardizes that right.”
The next seat that could be vacant is Pompeo’s House seat.
Trump named Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas as his choice for director of the CIA. Pompeo actually wrote a 2012 Politico article that begged, “Stop harassing the Koch brothers.” Rep. Pompeo is a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and a member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Pompeo will have to resign from his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for Kansas’ fourth congressional district if he wants to head the CIA.
If Pompeo is approved, Kansas’ Gov. Sam Brownback has exactly five days to set a date for a special election to fill that vacancy. Since Pompeo represents that district, only the 425,000 registered voters who live within its boundaries will be able to vote for his replacement, according to KWCH News. Each recognized state party will get to put one candidate on the ballot. Independents can run by petition. Progressives need to find their candidate and start promoting him or her now to have any chance at that seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The winner of the special election will complete Pompeo’s two-year House term. Democrats have represented this very district before, according to Hutch News, so it is possible. At the General Election, Daniel Giroux, Pompeo’s opponent, didn’t get very much attention even though his platform included investment in roads and bridges, simplifying the tax code, fighting trade agreements that ship jobs overseas, getting rid of “dark money,” and caring for veterans.
Bernie Sanders was fiercely popular in Kansas, so perhaps he or another candidate would have better luck in Kansas if they took on a more Progressive stance.
For example, the Democratic candidate could promise to try to replace the ACA with a single-payer system. Healthcare was listed by The Wichita Eagle as one of the biggest issues facing the area at this time. The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce even added expanding Medicaid to its policy priorities because of its ability to lower business costs. Another Progressive ideal that was held in high esteem among voters of both parties in Kansas was the effort to legalize medicinal hemp to treat seizure disorders. So, the voters might support a candidate if they also made medical marijuana a priority.
Taking these two vacant legislative spots might seem like an uphill battle to undertake, but Democrats and Progressives across the nation could be working together on this specific, mutually beneficial end goal instead of fighting each other. Replacing the congressional seats of two of the fiercest Republicans with progressive Democrats is absolutely worth the effort.