It looks like expelled Democratic State Rep. Steve Lebsock got the last laugh after all. After being voted out after many allegations of sexual misconduct, it turns out that Lebsock at 3:17 p.m. (by the Secretary of State’s clock, 3:02 by his clock) changed his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. Why does that matter? It matters because he was technically expelled as a Republican and, thus, it appears (at this point) that Republicans get to choose his successor through vacancy committee.
While some in the media (looking at you Kyle Clark) alleged that Republicans must have known about this beforehand and, thus, voted yes, the truth per Lebsock himself is that he made the move without telling anyone. As Lebsock walked to his final speech, he handed Republican Minority Leader Patrick Neville the printout of his voter registration. It’s worth noting that Neville voted not to expel Lebsock likely due to due process concerns that many shared.
Here is Lebsock’s account of the process:
I changed party affiliation at 3:02pm. As I walked down to speak for the last time, approx. 4pm, I handed the minority leader a document with affiliation change. Nothing was planned. He did not know about party change before. #copolitics
— Steve Lebsock (@RepLebsock) March 3, 2018
Neville’s response? “Didn’t see that one coming.”
Democrats responded with vitriol as expected, saying: ““As far as the seat, we’re looking into it. Either way, we’re confident the district will be represented by a Democrat by the time the next session begins.”
For that snarky response alone, Republicans should appoint a Republican to the seat. In any case, Democrats may want to rethink their arrogance. The seat itself is a D +4.45, which means that it leans Dem, but it’s no slam dunk for Democrats.
As for Republicans, they’re taking a measured approach:
“Our HD 34 Vacancy Committee has the right to fill the vacancy. Whether it chooses to do so is another question. If it declines to act within 30 days, the gov gets to fill the vacancy. Because Lebsock was a Dem when he committed his misdeeds, the VC could decline to fill his seat.”
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Democrats have a large majority in the House due to gerrymandering. One seat will not shift the balance of power. Just for the record, however, that there’s no way in hell, had the shoe been on the other foot, Democrats would allow Republicans to pick the successor.