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How Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers would be replaced if she joins Trump cabinet depends on timing

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., left, leaves as President-elect Donald Trump walks into the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse  Nov. 20 in Bedminster, N.J.. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., left, leaves as President-elect Donald Trump walks into the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse Nov. 20 in Bedminster, N.J.. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

The length of time Eastern Washington’s congressional seat would remain empty if Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers resigns to take a job in the Trump administration depends on several things, state elections officials said.

It could be empty until November, or it could be filled through a special election in late spring or the summer.

The Eastern Washington Republican, recently elected to a seventh term, has been mentioned as a possible Interior Department secretary after she met with President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 20 in New Jersey.

On Tuesday, she was named a vice chairwoman of the 13-member Trump transition executive committee, a group that also includes the president-elect’s pick for attorney general and national security adviser, and several other potential administration members like Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

In a news release, McMorris Rodgers said the election shows voters want to “shake up” the status quo.

“I’m proud to work alongside Donald Trump and Mike Pence as they lead the fight to restore the people’s voice to our government,” she said in the statement.

McMorris Rodgers and her staff did not respond to requests to talk about what her duties with the transition team committee entail, or her interest in a cabinet position.

But if she is offered an administration post and accepts, the question of how soon she would be replaced depends on when she resigns. It would be more than four months, at the earliest.

Some administration jobs could start as soon as Trump is inaugurated, but Cabinet officials undergo Senate hearings, which can’t happen until Congress convenes in January, and could take weeks.

Nominees could resign their current post at any time, but would have to leave when confirmed by the Senate. That’s where timing plays a role in Washington laws on replacing House members.

The governor can appoint someone to a vacant Senate seat, but a House seat stays vacant until a replacement is elected.

If a House member resigns by March 7, the governor would call a special election. Candidates would file for office and a primary would be held at least 70 days later, with a general election at least 70 days after that.

If a House member resigns after March 7 but before filing week starts on May 15, would-be replacements would file with all other candidates for the 2017 election, running in the August primary and the November general election.

If the resignation happens after filing week ends on May 19, the process can’t start until after the general election on Nov. 7.

“There are more details to research and vet if this moves forward,” Lori Augino, state elections director, said Wednesday in a news release. “We’re also looking at cost estimates for a stand-alone election and an election held in conjunction with the regular primary and general.”

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