Gov. Kay Ivey signed a proclamation Tuesday moving the special election date for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to this fall — backtracking on her predecessor’s decision hold the contest until the 2018 midterms.
The new schedule sets the primary on Aug. 15, with a runoff on Sept. 26, and a general election to be held on Dec. 12. With the stroke of a pen, the election will now be held a year ahead of the schedule set by former Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned from office last week.“I promised to steady our ship of state. This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement U.S. Senator as soon as possible,” Ivey said. “The new U.S. Senate special election dates this year are a victory for the rule of law.”
Bentley’s decision to hold the election in 2018 was met with criticism because he appointed former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to the post in the midst of his office’s investigation into Bentley’s alleged affair and misuse of state funds.
Impeachment proceedings against Bentley were halted in late 2016 when Strange asked a House Committee to delay their investigation because of his office’s “related work.”
The cloud over Strange’s appointment coupled with the postponed special election eventually prompted a lawsuit in March filed by State Auditor Jim Zeigler and Conecuh County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Tommy Chapman.
Before leaving office, Bentley defended his decision, claiming that scheduling the Senate race in line with 2018 General Election would save the state millions of dollars and ensure a higher turnout. Though Ivey made the move to reverse course just over a week after taking office, she said her decision wasn’t “hastily made.”
“I consulted legal counsel, the finance director, Speaker McCutcheon, Senate President Del Marsh, and both budget chairmen since the cost to the General Fund could be great,” Ivey added. “However, following the law trumps the expense of a special election.”As for Strange, who declared his candidacy for the spot vacated by Sessions before he was appointed to it by Bentley, he said he’s “ready to run whether the election is next month or next year.”
“As the only announced candidate for this office, I will spend the next several months being the best Senator I can be, upholding Alabama values and working with President Donald Trump to drain the swamp and help make America great again,’ Strange said in a statement. “The people of Alabama deserve nothing less and ultimately it will be up to them to decide who will represent them in Washington.”