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Bentley to set Senate Special Election for 2018

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Gov. Robert Bentley will soon be appointing a replacement for Sen. Jeff Sessions, but his replacement will only be temporary. Mr. Bentley announced on Thursday that he would schedule the Special Election for Mr. Sessions’ former Senate seat to coincide with the 2018 statewide elections.

Mr. Bentley told a pool of reporters with him in Montgomery that he would set the Special Election to replace Session for November 2018. Yasamie August, his communications directors, confirmed the date and said Mr. Bentley has yet to decide who he will appoint as Sessions’ temporary replacement.

According to August, waiting another year and allowing the temporary replacement to serve more than two years will save the State money and give more citizens the opportunity to voice their opinion on who should be Sessions’ long-term successor.

“There are two main reasons for waiting until 2018,” she said. “The first is that it will save millions of dollars according to the Secretary of State’s Office due to the costs associated with conducting a statewide primary and general elections. Secondly, special elections generally have a lower voter turnout of around 25 percent, so the Governor determined it is best to have the Special Election coincide with the 2018 General election.”

The Governor has interviewed twenty state and federal officials and a businessman as possible contenders for the interim appointment. Among them: Attorney General Luther Strange, several US representatives and state senators. All interviewees are current or former Republican office holders, aside from businessman Tim James.

Bentley has interviewed “Self Proclaimed” Alabama Trump Campaign Co-Chairman Perry Hooper, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Glenn Murdock, State Rep. Connie Rowe, State Sen. Arthur Orr, State Sen. Cam Ward, US Rep. Mo Brooks, State Sen. Del Marsh, Chief Justice Roy Moore, State Sen. Bill Hightower, State Sen. Trip Pittman, State Rep. Bill Poole, Mr. James, Mr. Strange, US Rep Gary Palmer, US Rep. Martha Roby, State Sen. Greg Reed, State Sen. Phil Williams, US Rep. Robert Aderholt, ADECA Director Jim Byard and Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee.

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Mr. Bentley told reporters on Thursday that he would keep his selection a secret until Mr. Sessions’ is confirmed and formally resigns, at which point Mr. Bentley will announce his appointment.

Confirmation hearings for Mr. Sessions, who was once denied confirmation for a federal judicial post, begin later this month. President-elect Donald Trump announced in November that Mr. Sessions would be his pick for US Attorney General.

The State’s decades-old constitution and laws on Senate vacancies, which is vague like many other Alabama constitutional provisions, does not set a specific timeframe other than “forthwith” for when an appointment must be made or when a special election should be called to select a long-term replacement.

According to several individuals whom Mr. Bentley has interviewed, the Governor has been asking each candidate whether they would support Mr. Trump in carrying out his policy agenda.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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