Thirteen-year statehouse veteran Rep. Jim Barton (R-104) resigned Aug. 7 to become a lobbying partner with Kinney Capital Group. Barton, who was defeated by political newcomer Bill Hightower in an election to the state Senate last year, said he would use his experience as the chairman of the state’s budget committee to lobby on behalf of a number of industries.
“It’s been an honor to serve but an opportunity presented itself I could not walk away from,” Barton said, adding the firm will adopt the name Barton-Kinney Capital Group. “At the end of the day it took a lot of self reflection, plus the advice of my wife and close friends and it made sense to take the opportunity to go with a governmental affairs firm with my knowledge of the system and the statehouse and the connections I have to represent a broad spectrum of clients.”
Barton said he had hoped to avoid forcing the district into a special election to fill the vacancy, but the Department of Justice ruled against a request to coordinate a ballot to coincide with the special primary election to replace Jo Bonner in September.
“On Friday we found out we could not be on same election cycle and the reason they gave is that you can’t have different ballots,” he said. “The ballot in 104 would have candidates for 104 and Jo’s seat, but in districts 101 or 103 it would be a different ballot. It would have been in everybody’s best interest to avoid another election, and I hate that we couldn’t.”
On Aug. 9, Gov. Robert Bentley amended a special election schedule for Barton’s seat, as well as one vacated by Rep. Jay Love in Montgomery County Aug. 1. In both districts, a special primary election will be held Tuesday, Oct. 15, or in the event that a special primary election is not necessary because the major parties only have one candidate, a special general election will be held Dec. 10. If necessary, a special primary runoff election will be held Tuesday, Dec. 3.
If a special primary runoff election is not necessary because one candidate receives a majority of the votes in the special primary election, the special general election will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 10. If a special primary runoff election is required, the special general election will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Major political party candidates for the seat must qualify quickly, as the Governor’s timeline sets a deadline of 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 19. Third-party, independent and minor party candidates must file with the Secretary of State by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Barton said while his first 10 years in the statehouse as a minority member was mainly “playing defense,” his last three were both challenging and rewarding.
“I did not anticipate being general fund chairman and frankly I was for a time overwhelmed by the huge financial needs of Medicare, the prison system, the mental health system and other things,” he said. “It ended up where I spent a tremendous amount of time in Montgomery trying to get up to speed and meeting with agency heads to put together very responsible budgets without raising taxes and very little borrowing. I’ve been in business myself since I was 26 and this was a tremendous battle and challenge and I enjoyed it to some degree but was miserable at other times. I knew when cutting budgets I was affecting someone’s life, but the reality is you have X amount of money and Y amount of need and you have to decide priority. So I was ready to do something else.”