Zoeller: Let legislatures choose Senate candidates

Former Attorney General Greg Zoeller (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — U.S. Senate candidates in Indiana would be nominated by the General Assembly instead of selected by voters in a primary if the state’s top legal officer has his way.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says a “soft repeal” of the 17th Amendment would revive the idea that U.S. senators are ambassadors of a state’s government and not free agents.

“If they had to come back … and get renominated each six-year cycle, they’ll be less likely to pass statutes that stuck it to states,” Zoeller told The Times in Munster. “Would we have an unfunded mandate if they had to come back and explain it to members of the Legislature?”

Zoeller’s proposal is a twist on the tea party’s call for a full repeal of the 17th Amendment. States’ rights conservatives say that since the amendment passed in 1913, the federal government has come to view states as entities it controls instead of as the co-equal sovereigns envisioned under the U.S. Constitution.

Shifting the nominating duties to legislatures could reduce the number of legal challenges stemming from federal regulations and unconstitutional laws, said Zoeller, who has challenged the federal government on several issues since taking office.

Indiana Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he’s open to having the General Assembly or state party conventions pick U.S. Senate candidates. All candidates for statewide offices except senator and governor already are decided by delegates at the party conventions, not through primary elections.

“The key thing is making Washington pay attention to the states, and the representatives of those states pay attention to the needs of their states,” Long said. “There seems to be a tone-deafness out there these days.”

Voters would still have final say on who represents Indiana in the Senate.

Indiana’s next U.S. Senate contest is in 2016.

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