Tea Party pushes 17th Amendment to the forefront

We bet you didn’t know that the 17th Amendment was such a hot-button issue this year.

The issue has already made its way into the races of at least two of the GOP's top 10 House recruits, and one of them has already stumbled over it.

The 17th Amendment provides for direct election of U.S. senators, and it turns out it isn’t too popular in the Tea Party movement. It’s a strange issue to be taking a position on, but when the base calls for something, it’s hard to say no.

And nobody knows that better than Steve Stivers.

The former Ohio state senator said in a 912 Project questionnaire last year that he supported repealing the 17th Amendment, and then he reasserted that position in a January interview with The Hill.

But after Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy’s (D-Ohio) campaign began to make an issue of that position, Stivers backed away from it in recent days.

“I made a mistake," he told the Columbus Dispatch. "I answered that question wrong. It was not intentional.”

Stivers is one of 10 candidates who have attained the status of Young Gun in the NRCC’s program for top candidates. Late last week, another one of the 10, Iraq veteran Vaughn Ward, also came out in favor of the amendment.

Ward, who is running against Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) and faces a primary with a candidate who has come out for a repeal, said he agrees with that position.

“The framers of the Constitution believed that the Senate was to be picked by our state legislature, and through the 17th Amendment, they changed that,” Ward said on a local public television program (see it at about the 15:00 mark here). “And I think that that’s been part of the problem of eroding away state’s rights, where that body, the Senate, is no longer beholden to and tied to the state.

“When you look at how come state’s rights have been so abrogated, it’s because of things like the 17th Amendment that has taken away those rights from our states."

Satisfying the framers' intent is generally a winning position to take, but do most people want their senators elected by their state legislatures?