Politics shouldn't influence commissioners' choice
Jackson County Democrats have their work cut out for them in filling the vacancy left by the sudden death of Sen. Alan Bates, D-Medford. The Jackson County commissioners have a simpler task, if they fulfill it in the spirit of serving the best interest of the voters of Senate District 3.
Bates untimely death leaves his seat vacant just three months before the November election. His term lasts until 2018, so the seat was not on the ballot this year, but it is now. Whoever is elected in November will take office in January, just before the 2017 legislative session, serve the remainder of the term, then have to run again in 2018 for a full term.
On the Republican side, Dave Dotterrer, who ran against Bates in 2010 and 2014, has said he is considering seeking the GOP nomination.
The Democrats must also pick a nominee to appear on the November ballot, as well as submit a list of names to the county commissioners, who will appoint one of those people to fill the seat until January. That might end up being the same person who runs in November, but it doesn't have to be.
The Democrats' choice is complicated by the possibility that Mike Moran, who is currently running against Rep. Sal Esquivel for Esquivel's House District 6 seat, may drop the House bid to run for the Senate instead, which would leave the Democrats in need of a replacement House candidate.
The commissioners, all Republicans, are in the unusual situation of having to choose a Democrat to fill a vacant seat because it was held by a Democrat.
In 2004, when Bates was first elected to the Senate, longtime Sen. Lenn Hannon resigned at the beginning of the year to accept a state government appointment.
At the time, there were two Democrats and one Republican on the board of commissioners, and then Commissioner Dave Gilmour made it clear he would pick someone he considered a weak Republican candidate to fill Hannon's seat to make it more likely that Bates would be elected in November. We complimented Gilmour on his honesty but criticized him for putting politics ahead of the interests of District 3 residents.
The present commissioners should put politics aside, as Gilmour should have, and pick the person they think will be the best representative. Who ends up winning the seat for the long term will be decided, as it should be, by the voters on Nov. 8.