By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Probate Judge John Enslen has confirmed in a written statement that the upcoming January 28, 2014, run-off election between Mike Holmes and Jimmy Collier will determine the final winner for the vacant house seat created by the resignation of Barry Mask last October.
Probate Judge Enslen received word from the Secretary of State late on December 5th that no one legally qualified as a third party candidate. Enslen said,
“Due to the lack of a qualifying third-party candidate, there will be no general election on March 25. The winner of the January 25 run-off will be the representative for HD 31.”
Constitution Party Candidate Jeshua Screws had turned in enough signatures to force a general election between himself and the eventual Republican Primary winner, but too many of those signatures were later ruled invalid (for one reason or another), thus the necessary high bar for a third party candidate to qualify was not reached. Only registered voters who reside in District 31 can sign such a petition. This is complicated because most people don’t know with certainty where their home is districted and this was more complex this year because of redistricting.
Enslen said, “This is good news for Elmore County residents living in House District 31 in at least one respect. The people will now have a representative seated in the legislature for a majority of the 2014 session that begins in January. Had a general election been required, it would not have taken place until March 25, 2014—too late for effective representation in the 2014 regular session.”
This also eliminates the possibility of a write in candidate. Enslen explained,
“The lack of a third party candidate effectively kills the hopes of any write-in candidate because write-in candidates are allowed only in general elections and not in primary elections. Amendment 97 to the Alabama Constitution dispenses with the need for a special general election in our current circumstances. Where the Secretary of State determines that a legally qualified candidate is unopposed when the last date for filing certificates of nomination has passed, the general election shall not be held. On January 28, 2014, either Mike Holmes or Jimmy Collier will be unopposed because the date for filing a third-party certificate of nomination will have passed without a qualifying third-party.”
The December 3rd Republican Primary turnout disappointed Judge Enslen. Enslen said, “Please go to the polls and vote on January 28th. Voting is a special privilege. When we conscientiously fulfill our obligations as concerned citizens, we honor those who have sacrificed so much for the special privileges we enjoy. The individual participation of each of us is vitally important if we are to maintain a government which is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Wetumpka Tea Party President Becky Gerritson (who endorsed Mike Holmes) announced on Facebook, “NO other candidate qualified for AL HD 31 general election! The 3rd party candidate from the Constitution Party did NOT have enough signatures. So whoever wins the Jan 28thh run-off election between Mike Holmes and Jimmy Collier will fill the seat.”
The Alabama Constitution Party reported that they had turned in enough petition signatures to place their candidate, Jeshua Screws, on the special general election ballot in Alabama House District 31 in Elmore and Coosa Counties.
Since no Democrat has qualified to run, it was believed that a special general election would not be necessary and that the winner of the special Republican Primary runoff election between Mike Holmes (71) and Jimmy Collier (68) would be the automatic winner of the election. However if Screws’ signatures had been validated by the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, it would have forced a special general election on March 25th.
Jeshua Screws is a full time volunteer at a home for the children of incarcerated parents in Wetumpka Alabama. Before joining the army as a Chaplain Assistant, he received his B.S. in Christian Ministry. He finished his first Masters Degree in Political Science with AUM, and he is currently taking online classes to complete a second Masters Degree in Christian Studies with Grand Canyon University. Jeshua also is Chaplain for the Constitution Party of Alabama and on the Board for Personhood Alabama. In addition to this, he is a volunteer assistant chaplain at Frank Lee Work Release where he teaches bible classes and ministers one-on-one with inmates. He currently resides on site at the children’s home with his wife Stacy, and their baby girl, Haddassah.
The 2014 Alabama legislative session begins on January 15th so the winner of the special Republican Primary runoff will miss the opening three weeks of the session. If that election had been followed by a special general election on March 25th the eventual winner would have missed the entire 2014 regular legislative session, and would only have served if a special session is called in 2014.
The primary in House District 31 (Elmore and Coosa Counties) featured four Republicans: Frank Bertarelli, Jimmy Collier and Mike Holmes of Wetumpka and Michael Griggs of Tallassee. The January runoff will be between Mike Holmes and Jimmy Collier. Holmes received 41% of the votes cast (1370 votes), Jimmy Collier received 29% (979 votes), Frank Bertarelli received 19% (638 votes) and Michael Griggs received 10% (349 votes).
Tuesday’s primary was needed to fill a vacancy in the Alabama’s House of Representatives created by the resignation of Representative Barry Mask (R) from Wetumpka to accept a job as head of the Alabama Realtors Association. Since part of Mask’s job involves lobbying the state legislature on behalf of the realtors, being both a legislator and the head of the Realtors Association would create a potential conflict of interest.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead made a written statement following the results of the election. Chairman Armistead wrote, “”I also congratulate Mike Holmes and Jimmy Collier for their successful campaign in District 31 to face one another in the runoff election in January. We were fortunate to have four dedicated citizens offer themselves for this office.” “I encourage Republicans in Elmore and Coosa counties to come out one more time to vote in this runoff election. I am confident that the voters in District 31 will have another strong conservative Republican representing them in the House for the remainder of this term, which ends in next November.”
This special election will be for the District 31 boundaries as set following the 2000 Census. In June the winner will run for re-election under the new district boundaries set in redistricting following the 2010 Census. Screws can still qualify for the November 2014 election, but he likely will have to start the petition process all over again as those petitions were for the Special General Election rather than the November General Election.
The Alabama Constitution Party hopes to run other candidates to challenge the Republican super-majority from their right in 2014. The group wrote on their Facebook page, “Derrick Douglass is well on his way to becoming our first candidate for the 2014 General State Election. He is only a handful of signatures away from qualifying for Alabama House District 91. Congratulations Derrick and THANK YOU for taking a stand.”
An angry Derrick Douglas said on Facebook following the Screws disqualification announcement, “The Alabama Secretary of State office is corrupt and self serving.”