What would it mean if Sen. Richard Burr stepped down?

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter Jr. has ordered the brother-in-law of North Carolina U.S. Sen. Richard Burr to testify in an insider trading probe. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating any potential sale of stock just before COVID-19 caused the markets to plummet.

Lawyers for both Burr and Gerald Fauth have denied any wrongdoing.

Burr has given no indication that he would step away from his senate seat, which has one year left on its term. But if he were to do so, there are mechanisms in place.

“If he chooses to leave, that would again kind of put North Carolina back into the spotlight. We’ve got a competitive U.S. Senate race already underway. That would cause even more confusion and chaos in terms of who was going to hold on to that seat,” said Michael Bitzer, professor of politics and history at Catawba College.

Until a few years ago, state law gave the North Carolina governor great leeway in appointing someone to fill a vacated senate seat.

“Previously, it did not matter which political party the governor picked from. He could be strategic. If a Republican vacated the seat, he could appoint a Democrat, but the legislature changed the law and now he has to abide by the political party that holds that senate seat,” Bitzer said.

That party’s executive committee, currently the Republican Party, gives the governor three people to choose from.

So who to choose from? The executive committee could choose from the list of current Senate candidates. That includes former governor Pat McCrory, Congressman Ted Budd, and former congressman Mark Walker. In that case, the appointee could have a leg up in the election.

That could also present its own set of problems.

“I think that that is a kind of internal party dynamic that really would cause some controversy because if you pick one of the current candidates, you are automatically tilting the deck towards that individual. That has happened in other states in the past and sometimes that backfires with the voters,” Bitzer said.

They could also offer a list of caretakers, or people not running.

“And just kind of let that person fill the seat and let the party play itself out. I think there are a lot of what-ifs going on with this kind of scenario,” Bitzer said.

Burr is not running for re-election and has previously announced he is retiring after his third term. Bitzer said Burr’s guilty vote during the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump surprised a lot of people and there could be more surprises to come.

“Maybe he has a sense of freedom to now really express his public policy issues without having to go back before the voters.”

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