House members working on legislation that would allow for special election

Thursday, October 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Residents in Oklahoma's 1st Congressional District may get to vote on a replacement for U.S. Rep. Steve Largent after he resigns next month to campaign for governor.

Reps. Russ Roach, D-Tulsa, and Mark Liotta, R-Tulsa, have been authorized by House Speaker Larry Adair to work with the state Election Board on a proposal that could be voted on when lawmakers resume their special session.

Largent plans to quit his position Nov. 29 to devote his time to a gubernatorial run. But he said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks might cause him to change his mind if it meant residents in his district would go unrepresented for as long as three months.

According to the election process, a position has to be vacant before a special election can be held. That means choosing a replacement could take up to three months.

The proposed legislation allowing an election to take place while the office is still occupied could be incorporated into an existing Senate bill awaiting House action, Roach said.

``If it (Largent's resignation) is going to occur anyway, this would be a much smoother and logical way to do it,'' Roach said.

A proposal would have Largent would submit a valid letter of resignation in advance to Gov. Frank Keating. The letter would contain a future effective date to coincide with the election date.

The three Republicans and one Democrat who are running for Largent's seat support the proposal, Roach said.

Keating, whose wife, Cathy, is a candidate in the congressional race, amended his call for the special session to include an early special election. But the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate said it was not a priority for them.

Republicans said there is precedent for accommodating Largent.

In 1994, state law was changed to allow a special election to replace David Boren when he resigned from the U.S. Senate to become president of the University of Oklahoma.

The statute provided that the person elected would take office on the effective date of the incumbents resignation. That change in law was applicable only to U.S. senators.