Congressional privilege: Hastert ignores election calendar

Yesterday we noted the large number of special elections in Massachusetts prompted by departing state legislators. But most of those legislators left for other jobs. US Rep. Dennis Hastert, who lost his speakership position when the Democrats took control of the House after last year’s elections, is more brazen. In a "farewell speech" yesterday afternoon, Hastert didn’t give any real reason why he couldn’t complete the two-year term he sought from voters in 2006. One of his aides helpfully told CNN.com that Hastert has no health problems and no plans to do anything when he leaves Congress.

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Maybe Hastert really is retiring for health reasons: He’s sick over having lost the perks of being Speaker and doesn’t have the stomach to tough it out until the next regularly scheduled election. Or maybe he feels that poll watchers in Illinois don’t get enough work. CQPolitics notes that Hastert’s dawdling on the exact date of his resignation means the voters won’t choose his successor on a date when they may be going to the polls anyway:

…he appears to be averting the tactical political error of allowing Blagojevich to schedule the special general election to coincide with the regular primary election on Feb. 5. A large Democratic turnout is likely that day, spawned by the presidential primary campaign of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama . That could also help the Democrats’ chances in a special general election in Illinois’ 14th.