According to a poll released Friday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) can eliminate one person from consideration for Tim Kaine’s U.S. Senate seat if Democrats win the White House: himself.
More than 80 percent of likely voters do not want McAuliffe to appoint himself to a vacancy that would arise if Kaine wins the vice presidency, a survey commissioned by the University of Mary Washington found.
Political observers say McAuliffe is one of the few people who can raise the cash, is qualified for the job and has already proven he can win statewide — all qualities necessary to compete in what would be a high-stakes election.
The governor, who is limited to one term in Virginia, has repeatedly said he has no interest in serving in the Senate.
But the poll also found 53 percent of residents approve of his performance in his current job.
“There is something sort of unseemly about appointing yourself to a job,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington. “We like our politicians to express a little humility now and then.”
The last time a governor tapped himself, in the late ’70s, voters were not pleased: Democrat Wendell Anderson of Minnesota, who died recently, was rejected by voters in his state.
Depending on the outcome of this year’s Senate races, the seat could determine the balance of power in the Senate, and a President Hillary Clinton would need a majority to confirm her nominees for the Supreme Court and other federal benches.
Pollsters also asked voters about Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, a longtime congressman from Newport News who many consider the front-runner for the seat because of his experience and potential to make history as the first African American from Virginia in the Senate.
The poll found 17 percent of likely voters favor Scott, followed by 12 percent who prefer Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D). The state’s other Democrats in Congress — Northern Virginia Reps. Don Beyer and Gerald E. Connolly — each garnered 8 percent. Another 13 percent did not choose any of those four options, and 37 percent said they did not know.
In the case of a Senate vacancy, McAuliffe could appoint Kaine’s successor to serve for about a year. Then there would be a special election in November 2017, followed by an election for the full term one year later.
Back-to-back races would require a candidate who can raise at least $20 million in consecutive years, experts say.
The survey is based on cellphone and landline interviews from Sept. 6 to 12, with 1,006 Virginia adults. The margins of error range from plus or minus 3.6 to 4.4 percentage points.