November 30, 2016 12:00 PM
With a special election looming to fill the soon to be vacated seat of Congressman Tom Price, there’s a lot of confusion and social media discussion on Georgia’s “Resign To Run” law. Let’s clear the first part of the confusion up. It’s more than a law. It’s in the Georgia Constitution.
Article II, Section 2, Paragraph V of the Constitution states:
“The office of any state, county, or municipal elected official shall be declared vacant upon such elected official qualifying, in a general primary or general election, or special primary or special election, for another state, county, or municipal elective office or qualifying for the House of Representatives or the Senate of the United States if the term of the office for which such official is qualifying for begins more than 30 days prior to the expiration of such official’s present term of office.”
So, let’s apply these fairly specific words to the expected special election for Congressman Tom Price. The seat is in the House of Representatives, and that’s clearly mentioned as an office for which one must resign to run for. Those affected would be any County Commissioner, City Council Member, State Rep, or State Senator, etc. Pretty much any elected current office holder rumored to be looking at the race.
Now let’s look at when this takes effect.
“…shall be declared vacant upon such elected official qualifying”. Therefore, these elected officials may begin a campaign and run all the way up to qualifying, then resign their seat, legally. Politically…that may be another story. Georgia’s campaign finance law prohibits fundraising during the session for members of the General Assembly. This prohibition, however, does not apply to federal races. The optics of remaining in office until qualifying while raising money will not be good for those who choose to (again, legally) do so. They will look even worse if said candidate then decides to stay put.
Thus, the elected officials rushing to stake out territory in this race will have some decisions to make. Timing of the special, dependent on both Price’s confirmation and the call for the election (which will then determine when qualifying would happen) would determine if any legislators leave at the beginning of the session or mid-way, but at some point it seems many in the North Atlanta suburbs will lack representation during the 2017 session unless the election is delayed until June, at which point there’s a loss of representation in Congress. We’ll devote a separate post later to this timing, and the variables involved.