It turns out that Jay Inslee messed things up even more than originally thought when he resigned from Congress in order to campaign full-time for governor. Contrary to the impression left by reporting at the time, the state will hold a special election to fill his seat, but in about as confusing a way as you could possibly imagine.
Worse, Inslee's former district is the 1st, which has been redrawn. So voters from the old 1st District will elect the temporary representative, while voters from the new 1st District will elect the representative who will take over in January. At the exact same time.
Even Governor Chis Gregoire, like Inslee a Democrat, acknowledged this recipe for confusion as she announced the special election on Monday.
It took the governor and Secretary of State some time to figure out how to proceed after Inslee stepped down from his Congressional seat in March. At first, Secretary of State spokesperson David Ammons tells SW, officials looked to a state law that triggered a special election if a Congressperson's resignation would leave a vacancy of greater than eight months. That's probably why The Seattle Times initially reported that Inslee resigned just days after the cutoff date for a special election.
And it's true, that cutoff date--in Inslee's case March 6-- would have changed things. Ammons says the state would have been required to hold a special election much earlier, likely sometime in the summer.
When Inslee resigned after that date, Ammons says his office assumed it was then the Secretary of State's call as to whether a special election would be held. But then they found out that the U.S. Constitution mandates that the governor call an election to fill a Congressional vacancy.
Extensive consultation with the U.S. House then told state officials that the special election would have to be from the old 1st district; the House said it would refuse to seat someone elected from the new.
The remaining question was when the election should be held. In further testament to the confusion wrought by the whole thing, there still isn't clarity about how much wiggle room the governor had as to timing.
In an interview with SW, Gregoire spokesperson Cory Curtis says that the governor could have called the special election for earlier, but chose not to. "Cost is a big factor," he explained, saying it's cheaper to hold the special and regular elections simultaneously. Ammons, in contrast, says that a state law dictates that a special election called to fill vacancies shorter than eight months be held in tandem with the regular election.
Either way, the outcome means that the state will remain one representative short for eight months, something that Inslee could have avoided had he stayed in office until the end of his term.
Gregoire put the best face on that, saying that the most critical votes for the state (including one on renewing a federal income tax deduction for state sales taxes) will occur in December. But as SW and others have pointed out, there are other issues--including President Obama's Jobs Act and withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan--that Congress is likely to take up before then.