WASHINGTON — It has been nearly a month since Congresswoman Marcia Fudge appeared before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs as part of the confirmation process before taking the job as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
By a 17-7 vote Feb. 4, the committee sent the Fudge nomination to the full Senate for a final vote but that vote came five days before the Senate began the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump and as a result, the confirmation vote has still not been scheduled and Senator Sherrod Brown said won’t be until next week, the first week of March at the earliest.
“I spoke with Congresswoman Fudge two or three days ago,” Brown told News 5. “I spoke with Senator Schumer the majority leader about moving the vote, I am hopeful that we can do it next week or the week after at the latest.”
“She will be confirmed it needs to be sooner rather than later that’s a really important agency Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and I will lead the charge in support of her on the senate floor, we’re going to get the vote scheduled,” he said.
Until that happens she remains a member of Congress and as a result, any special election to fill her seat when it opens up is likely going to be pushed back past the state’s May 4 primary date. That’s because the filing date for that election was three weeks ago on February 3.
While the ultimate decision on a date will be up to Governor Mike DeWine the Secretary of State’s office told News 5 based on the fact earliest the seat would open up is still roughly a week away staging a May 4 primary would be “virtually impossible.”
The state was in this position the last time the seat opened up in 2008 following the death of Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones. A special election had to be held Nov. 18, to fill the remaining two months of the term even though it was two weeks after Marcia Fudge won the election to the seat starting in January. On top of that Fudge, was unopposed so the nearly $1.4 million cost of staffing that election with poll workers came down to roughly $185 a vote.
Whenever the election is held it is unlikely there will be more than one dropbox per county for vote by mail ballots. While the courts ruled Secretary of State Frank LaRose has the power to make changes to the number of drop boxes he has said he would prefer the changes come through the legislature’s vote as opposed to the secretary’s pen.
“The best places to make changes as it relates to elections are at the state capitol, at the statehouse where you could work to get a bi-partisan consensus,” LaRose told News 5 after the November election.
State Representative Michele Lapore-Hagan(D-Youngstown) told News 5 ”if he wants us to take it through the legislature then we will."
She is a co-sponsor along with Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) of a measure to add multiple drop boxes per county based on geography and population.
"For us to have one dropbox for a million people it's absurd and it's surprising the vote,” she said.
Another thing on LaRose's wish list has been online requesting absentee ballots.
“I think close to 20 other states allow people to go online to request their absentee ballot,” LaRose said. “That can be done securely it's time that we make that step forward."