Can Chuck Turner Run For His Own Seat? I Think So-ish

Published December 3, 2010

I’m trying to get answers to my question from yesterday: Could Chuck Turner could run for his old City Council seat? No one I talked to at the state or city knows for sure. I have reached my own back-of-the-envelope conclusions, though.

Chuck Turner (WBUR)

Chuck Turner, future City Council candidate? (WBUR)

Obviously, there is no precedent here. Before this week, the modern-day City Council had never ousted one of its own members. Councilors voted 11-1 on Wednesday to expel Turner, following his conviction on federal bribery charges.

I asked council President Mike Ross to explain what’s next. At next week’s council meeting, the clerk formally announces a vacancy in District 7. The week after that, Ross begins work with the Election Department to nail down a date and order a special election.

Ross wants this seat filled as soon as reasonably possible. The rough plan is for mid-February, he said. That would fall after Turner’s Jan. 25 sentencing.

If Turner is sentenced to probation, rather than jail time, my understanding of the law is that he could legally serve.

To run for office in Massachusetts, you must be registered to vote. And you lose that right only if you’re incarcerated for a felony. The city’s statement of candidacy (PDF, page 8) — which all candidates sign to get on the ballot — makes no restrictions for convicted felons. Finally, as far I can determine, there are no council rules (PDF) or city codes (PDF) that forbid a previously expelled member from taking back his own seat.

But would he run? I called and left a message for Turner, but I haven’t heard back yet.

If Turner ran — and won — the council could just expel him again. But if voters are willing to elect a convicted felon (Turner had only been indicted when he was re-elected in November), there may not be the political will to remove Turner again.

Ross didn’t want to get into this far-flung idea with me. We’ll cross that bridge if we get to it, he said.

Just some speculation on a Friday afternoon.