As Mississippians pay their last respects to Rep. Alan Nunnelee, it’s now appropriate to start thinking about the next step of replacing his seat in Congress.

There have been several articles written about potential replacements. The Clarion Ledger and Roll Call both wrote articles that didn’t vary much in terms of the folks considering a run, and they pretty much capture the universe of potential candidates we’ve been hearing about. There are certainly some compelling candidates mulling a run and a few not-so-compelling options being discussed as well. Notably, PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley and Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton both said they’re not interested.

The odds are that this strongly Republican district will have a Republican candidate fill this seat. The real issue is when. When will an election be called? In deference to the people of the First District in North Mississippi, a seat in Congress is something that ideally is left unoccupied for the shortest amount of time possible.

In very basic terms, the law says that the Governor shall call the election with 60 days of the vacancy and that the election shall be held no sooner than 60 days of the call with a qualifying deadline of 45 days before the special election.

§ 23-15-853. Special elections to fill vacancies in representation in Congress; notice; qualification by candidates

(1) If a vacancy happens in the representation in Congress, the vacancy shall be filled for the unexpired term by a special election, to be ordered by the Governor, within sixty (60) days after such vacancy occurs, and to be held at a time fixed by his order, and which time shall be not less than sixty (60) days after the issuance of the order of the Governor . . .
(2) Candidates for the office in such an election must qualify with the Secretary of State by 5:00 p.m. not less than forty-five (45) days previous to the date of the election . . .

It should be incumbent on Governor Bryant and Secretary of State Hosemann to put their heads together and make this election happen as soon as possible. It’s not only good politics. It’s the right thing to do. The interests of folks in North Mississippi won’t be served with a long drawn out process. Ordering a special election for early May (May 5th has a nice ring to it) is technical possible under the statute and would be a good solution.

A by-product of a short fuse on a special election is that candidates that can organize quickly will do well. Those that can raise money, lead others and organize quickly are typically the best candidates anyway.

There will certainly be some themes to watch. Can the first district avoid the blood bath of the last few campaigns? Can the crazies be held in check since there are no incumbents or will there be more paid reverends, hijacked conference calls and nursing home photo scandals? What role will geography play? Will there be any proxy battles for the 2015 statewide elections?

As always, we’ll be watching it here.

UPDATED CORRECTION – I inadvertently misinterpreted the statute. While the statute says that the Governor must call the special election within 60 days of the vacancy, the law reads that the election can take place no sooner than 60 days from the call. As background, Haley Barbour appointed Roger Wicker to the US Senate on 12/31/2007 and the special election was held on 4/22/2008 to replace the MS1 seat he vacated. I regret the error and have made the minor modification to the story above.