LANSING - Democrats scrambled Monday to line up a replacement candidate for a western Michigan state Senate seat after the death of state Rep. Robert Jones.
The 20th district seat represents Kalamazoo County and part of Van Buren County. It was expected to be one of the tighter races in the 38-seat Senate for the Nov. 2 election, with Jones - a former Kalamazoo mayor - going against Republican state Rep. Tonya Schuitmaker of Van Buren County's Antwerp Township.
Incumbent Republican Tom George of Kalamazoo County's Texas Township can't run again because of the state's term limits law. He unsuccessfully ran for governor this year.
Jones died Sunday at age 66. He had been battling cancer.
Michigan Democratic Party spokesman John Tramontana said a new candidate could be nominated by party representatives Tuesday night at a special gathering in Kalamazoo.
''By the end of that meeting, they should have a candidate,'' Tramontana said.
Democrats and election officials were reviewing state law Monday to nail down the process and options for replacing Jones on the ballot. Time is running short with the election roughly two weeks away.
''We're all still kind of shocked,'' said David Pawloski, chairman of the Kalamazoo County Democratic Party. ''We're just learning the process right now as far as what we're going to have to do.''
Schuitmaker said she is temporarily halting advertising out of respect for Jones and his family. She said in a statement that Jones was a ''great man with a kind heart, and while we were recent rivals on the campaign trail, I know that he loved Kalamazoo and the people of our community.''
Jones defeated Michigan State University assistant professor of law Mark Totten in the August primary, 63 percent to 37 percent. Democratic delegates from Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties, however, would be able to nominate a different candidate from the district if they so choose.
Republicans now hold a 22-16 edge in the Michigan Senate. Only nine of 38 incumbents are running for re-election. The turnover is caused mainly by Michigan's term limits law, which restricts senators to two terms of four years and representatives to three terms of two years.