Gaming Out Line of Succession Scenarios

What happens if…

 

Gov. Northam resigns.

Lt. Governor Fairfax becomes Governor. Senate President pro tempore Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) discharges the duties of Lt. Governor until the Governor (Fairfax) appoints a new Lt. Governor. A special election is held in November 2019 to fill the remainder of the Lt. Gov term.

2019 Special Election? Yes.

Applicable code(s): VA Constitution Article V. Section 7.§ 24.2-212. Discharge of duties when office of Lieutenant Governor vacant. 

 

Lt. Gov. Fairfax resigns.

Senate President pro Tempore Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) discharges the duties of Lt. Governor until the Governor (Northam) appoints a new Lt. Governor. A special election is held in November 2019 to fill the remainder of the Lt. Gov term.

2019 Special Election? Yes.

Applicable code(s): VA Constitution Article V. Section 7.§ 24.2-212.

 

AG Mark Herring resigns.

If the vacancy occurs during session, the total membership votes (House and Senate combined) to appoint a new AG for the remainder of the term. The GOP currently holds a 122-117 edge (Del. Jennifer Boysko vacated her seat to become Sen. Boysko, to fill Rep. Jennifer Wexton’s seat. A special election in HD-86 is scheduled for Feb. 19th).

If the vacancy during a recess, the Governor appoints a successor until 30 days after the commencement of the next session. This would not be regularly scheduled until January 2020, but it seems likely that a special session would be called for this purpose.

2019 Special Election? No.

Applicable code(s): § 24.2-213. Filling vacancy in office of Attorney General.

 

Northam and Fairfax both resign.

Due to this being a voluntary act, they would have control over the order and timing. Thus, it seems likely that one resignation would follow the other only after the second one has appointed a new Lt. Governor. Assuming this, the new Lt. Governor (who then becomes Governor) will be appointed by either Gov. Northam or Gov. Fairfax before they resign. They would then appoint another new Lt. Governor.

2019 Special Election? Yes.

Applicable code(s):  VA Constitution Article V. Section 7.§ 24.2-212.

 

Northam and Fairfax both resign, and appoint Mark Herring as Governor.

This scenario seemed plausible prior to Wednesday. Nonethess, again assuming control over order and timing, the above dual-resignation scenario would play out, leaving Governor Herring with either a new Attorney General appointed by the General Assembly (if during session) or Governor Herring would appoint his successor at the AG’s office, who then would be replaced after a special session called by the General Assembly. Governor Herring would also appoint his Lt. Governor.

2019 Special Election? Yes.

Applicable code(s): VA Constitution Article V. Section 7.§ 24.2-212.  & § 24.2-213.

 

One of Northam/Fairfax resign and also Mark Herring resigns.

These two scenarios are mutually exclusive from one another, so combine the scenarios above and plug in whomever the Governor is if the AG vacancy occurs when the General Assembly is not in session.

2019 Special Election? Yes.

Applicable code(s): VA Constitution Article V. Section 7.§ 24.2-212. & § 24.2-213.

 

All three of Northam, Fairfax, and Herring resign.

Due to control over order and timing, simply combine the combo Gov/Lt. Gov scenario with the AG scenario. Ultimately, the new Governor (who was appointed as Lt. Gov first) will pick the new A.G. if the General Assembly is not in session.

2019 Special Election? Yes.

Applicable code(s): VA Constitution Article V. Section 7.§ 24.2-212. & § 24.2-213.

 

Some combination of Northam, Fairfax, Herring, and Kirk Cox all leave at the same time.

This scenario is getting the most attention on political Twitter and in the media, as everyone loves a good line-of-succession story. The sad truth is that it’s also the most fantastical scenario, as even if the three statewide officials conclude they must resign, there’s no reason for it to happen in a timespan that doesn’t permit them to control the order of succession. The applicable laws were written with an emergency scenario in mind, not scandal.

So for this to occur, it would have to be an unexpected event: say, Northam and Fairfax decided to get away from it all and boarded a fishing boat to tour Tangier Island, and the boat got swept out to the open sea, and we as a populace declined to go rescue them. The with the Lt. Governor position vacant as well, Attorney General Mark Herring would become Governor (and then appoint a Lt. Governor, and appoint an Attorney General if the General Assembly were not in session).

Say that Northam and Fairfax invited Herring to go with them, and the boat were then lost at sea, Speaker Kirk Cox would become Governor (and then appoint a Lt. Governor, and appoint an Attorney General if the General Assembly were not in session).

If Speaker Cox also accepted a last minute invite to join the doomed fishing boat tour and were also lost at sea, the House of Delegates (not the full General Assembly) would vote on the new Governor, with the House at a 50-48 margin (before HD-86 is filled), due to Cox’s absence. That new Governor would then appoint a Lt. Governor, while the convened full membership of the General Assembly would appoint an Attorney General.

2019 Special Election? Yes.

Applicable code(s): VA Constitution Article V, Section 7Article V, Section 16 & & § 24.2-212. & § 24.2-213. & § 24.2-211. Discharge of duties when office of Governor is vacant or Governor is disabled.