Reeves takes office; newly-elected senator will serve 2-year term
Shane Reeves was sworn in Thursday to fill the vacant 14th District State Senate seat, even though his substantial victory in a special election Tuesday night hadn't yet been certified.
Reeves, a Republican from Murfreesboro, defeated Democrat Gayle Jordan on Tuesday in a special election to fill the remainder of Jim Tracy's term. The margin of victory was large, 71 percent for Reeves to 28 percent for Jordan, and so the outcome of the election is not reasonably in doubt, but election results aren't usually considered final until the results have been certified.
A state official told the Marshall County election administrator that as long as there was "clarity" in the unofficial, announced results, it was acceptable to go ahead and hold a swearing-in ceremony.
The certification process begins with local county election commissions meeting to certify election results. Bedford County Election Commission will meet Monday to do so, as will Marshall County Election Commission. Rutherford County Election Commission met Thursday night after Reeves's swearing-in earlier in the day. Lincoln County Election Commission will meet at 3 p.m. today. Moore County's election office could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Darlene Schlicher of the press office for Republican legislators, when asked for comment by the Times-Gazette, replied that "the authority comes from Article II, Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution."
However, that section doesn't mention anything specific about special elections or certified results.
It reads: "Legislative Department. Section 3. The legislative authority of this state shall be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives, both dependent on the people. Representatives shall hold office for two years and Senators for four years from the day of the general election, except that the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, each shall hold his office as Speaker for two years or until his successor is elected and qualified, provided however, that in the first general election after adoption of this amendment senators elected in districts designated by even numbers shall be elected for four years and those elected in districts designated by odd numbers shall be elected for two years. In a county having more than one senatorial district, the districts shall be numbered consecutively."
Article II, Section 15 deals with legislative vacancies. It states:
"Section 15. Vacancies. When the seat of any member of either House becomes vacant, the vacancy shall be filled as follows:
"(a) When twelve months or more remain prior to the next general election for legislators, a successor shall be elected by the qualified voters of the district represented, and such successor shall serve the remainder of the original term. The election shall be held within such time as provided by law. The legislative body of the replaced legislator's county of residence at the time of his or her election may elect an interim successor to serve until the election.
"(b) When less than twelve months remain prior to the next general election for legislators, a successor shall be elected by the legislative body of the replaced legislator's county of residence at the time of his or her election. The term of any Senator so elected shall expire at the next general election for legislators, at which election a successor shall be elected.
"(c) Only a qualified voter of the district represented shall be eligible to succeed to the vacant seat."
Tracy, a Shelbyville resident, resigned the 14th District seat in November to accept a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Reeves' election Tuesday night covers the remaining two years of Tracy's four-year term, until the 2020 election cycle.
Reeves was given the oath of office in the Senate chambers by Judge Don Ash of Murfreesboro.
"I'm incredibly honored and humbled to serve the people of the 14th district and excited about this new opportunity," said Reeves, according to a news release. "I will work very hard to honor the oath that I have taken today as I fulfill the duties of serving as their voice in Nashville. I look forward to working with Governor Haslam and my colleagues to improve opportunities for Tennesseans."
The 14th Senatorial District includes Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, and Moore Counties and part of Rutherford County.