By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Sunday, March 19, 2017, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley will have to explain why he delayed the Special Election for US Senator until 2018, in a hearing set for April 12.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said, “Under the illegal delay by Gov. Bentley, his anointed US Senator gets a free ride for almost two years before an elected Senator can take office. Bentley and Strange think they have gotten away with this illegal election. They have not gotten away with it yet, and the people of Alabama will remember this come election time.”
Zeigler and retired DA Tommy Chapman(D), the 25-year Chairman of the Conecuh County Democratic Executive Committee have brought this lawsuit.
Zeigler and Chapman claim the law on setting a special election for US Senate is clear, requiring it to be set “forthwith.” The case is in Montgomery County Circuit Court before Judge J.R. Gaines.
Doyle Fuller is the attorney representing Zeigler in a challenge to Gov. Bentley’s decision that postponing the election to 2018 meets the state’s definition of forthwith. Fuller is also representing Zeigler in a challenge of Bentley’s $47 million unbid STAARS contract for software that never worked well.
Zeigler and Chapman are asking for a declaratory judgment that the Bentley setting is illegal and an injunction requiring him to reset the election as soon as possible.
Zeigler and Chapman are basing their challenge on “the plain meaning” of Code of Alabama, Section 39-9-8, which states: § 36-9-8, Ala. Code 1975:
“Whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of senator of and from the state of Alabama in the senate of the United States more than four months before a general election, the governor of Alabama shall forthwith order an election to be held by the qualified electors of the state to elect a senator of and from the state of Alabama to the United States senate for the unexpired term. If the vacancy occurs within four months of but more than 60 days before a general election, the vacancy shall be filled at that election. If the vacancy occurs within 60 days before a general election, the governor shall order a special election to be held on the first Tuesday after the lapse of 60 days from and after the day on which the vacancy is known to the governor, and the senator elected at such special election shall hold office for the unexpired term.”
Gov. Bentley has argued that he could not hold the Special Election in 2017, because minor party candidates would not have had enough time to get ballot access. He also cited the cost of holding a Special Election.
Zeigler has been a vociferous critic of Gov. Robert Bentley. Gov. Bentley is term limited from running for Governor again, even if the legislature decides not to impeach him for his conduct associated with the alleged Rebekah Caldwell Mason affair. Zeigler on the other hand is openly contemplating running for Governor.
US Senator Luther Strange (R) has announced his intention to seek re-election to the remainder of Jeff Sessions term.