By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama’s only Independent State Senator, Harri Anne Smith announced in a statement on Monday June 30 that she has received official notification from the Alabama Secretary of State that her petition drive garnered the signatures necessary to allow her on the November ballot as an Independent candidate for State Senate.
Smith said that even though less than 2,000 signatures were required for ballot access, according to the Smith petition campaign, more than 13,436 local residents supported the petition to get Harri Anne on the November ballot as an Independent.
Senator Smith said, “Four years ago the effort was really about people in the Wiregrass taking back our vote. This time it is about keeping our vote. The people in our area are mad about Montgomery political bosses trying to dictate who our Senator will be.”
State Senator Smith said that more than three dozen volunteers went door-to-door and business-to-business to gather the needed signatures. Campaign workers attended meetings, festivals and other events to allow people to show their support for Smith to be granted ballot access. Smith said, “I am so thankful for the people who took the time to sign the petition to make sure they have a choice in November.”
Gayla White chaired the petition drive. White said, “The people in the Wiregrass know how hard Harri Anne Smith fights for our area in the Alabama Senate and they want to keep her there. They know Harri Anne is accessible, compassionate, hard working, and truly cares about them. Her work has brought new jobs, school funding and support for senior and veteran programs to the Wiregrass.”
Sen. Smith said, “My philosophy is simple. The people of the Wiregrass elected me and not some special interest or political boss in Montgomery. My job is to take care of our area and our people. How I vote is how the people in my district want me to vote and that has never changed and it never will.”
The nominees of the two major political parties are automatically placed on the General Election ballot. Although Senator Smith is the incumbent, because she is an independent candidate, she (like every independent) must have a petition signed by at least 3% of those voting in the last general election to even be on the ballot.
Senator Smith was first elected to the state Senate as a Republican in 1998. Smith however was forced to run as an Independent for re-election in 2010 after her candidacy was removed from the ballot by Republican Party officials who ruled that Smith broke party rules by supporting a Democrat during the 2008 election.
In 2008, both Senator Smith and former state Representative Jay Love pursued the open Second District Congressional seat being vacated by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Terry Everett (R). Rep. Love defeated Sen. Smith in a hard fought Republican Primary that got negative.
Smith endorsed the Democratic candidate; former Montgomery Mayor, Bobby Bright rather than her primary opponent: Rep. Love. Bright eventually won the seat with Smith’s support. The shocking Democratic Party victory was a blow to the Alabama Republican Party, then Chaired by state Rep. Mike Hubbard from Auburn, since the Second Congressional District seat had been in Republican hands since 1964. Republican Martha Roby took back the Second Congressional District in 2010, narrowly defeating Congressman Bright.
Smith’s actions in the 2008 election led to her being challenged in the 2010 Republican Party Primary. The Alabama Republican Party, then still chaired by Rep. Mike Hubbard, removed Sen. Smith from the Primary ballot so at that time she received the necessary signatures to run and won the race by 23,800 votes to 19,225 votes against a well-funded Republican opponent in George Flowers.
Smith is a former Mayor of Slocumb.
Smith’s Republican opponent in this election is Houston County Commissioner Melinda McClendon. McClendon said on Facebook Monday night, “The race is officially on! Today we received confirmation that HAS (Harri Anne Smith) had her signatures verified and she’s officially on the ballot for the November 4th general election. We are gearing up our campaign committees and will post sign-ups for volunteers in all 3 counties this week. Got the keys today for our campaign headquarters and will be working the next couple of weeks to get it open. Thank you for all the support, the prayers and the well wishes. I’m truly humbled by your kindness and willingness. Now, we just need some muscle to make this happen.” Melinda McClendon has already been endorsed by the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Forestry Association.
The General Election will be November 4.