While most agree that his shoes can never be filled, the 11th District Senate seat of the late Senator Michael A. O'Pake will be filled by a special election to be held March 15.
Senate President Pro Tempore and Lieutenant Governor Joe Scarnati made the announcement.
State law proscribes that whenever a vacancy occurs in the General Assembly, the lieutenant governor issues a writ of election, setting a date for a special election within that district to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term.
O'Pake's four-year terms expires at the end of 2012.
The popular O'Pake, a Reading Democrat, died Dec. 27 of complications from open heart surgery in November. He was 70 years of age.
O'Pake was the state's longest-serving member of the General Assembly. Following two terms in the state House, he was first elected to the state Senate in 1972 and was overwhelmingly re-elected to the Senate nine times. His district covers Reading and the eastern half of Berks.
According to state law, Scarnati, who, since the November 2008 death of Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, has served dual roles as the Senate pro tempore and the state's lieutenant governor, had to schedule the special election no sooner than 60 days following the proclamation of the vacancy and no later than the May 17 primary election.
'With the passing of Senator O'Pake, the citizens of the 11th District are without his committed, tireless representation,' Scarnati said. 'In light of the many important and pressing issues facing the citizens of the Commonwealth, I felt it was necessary to fill this post as quickly as possible, providing sufficient time for candidates to campaign and inform the citizens of this district of their qualifications and positions on the issues.'
According to Boyd Winegardner of the Berks County Democratic Committee, party rules require local members to meet to recommend a candidate to the party's state Executive Committee. That meeting date has not yet been set.
Republican Party rules state the local committee will also select a candidate, although the state committee does not need to affirm the party's choice.