By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, February 14, US Senate candidate Ron Crumpton (D) urged Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) to rescind his proclamation and set the Special Election for Senate this November, instead of November 6, 2018.
Crumpton said in a statement to supporters that Bentley’s setting of the special election 21 months into the future, “Is riddled with problems.” “First, If the Governor called for the opening of qualifying today, the election could be held in November of 2017. This timeline would comply with federal and state statutes and cases. Second, the law does not state that the election should be delayed because of fears of low turnout or because of the expense. Those are excuses for delay, they do not prevent the election from being held earlier.”
When a Senate seat becomes vacant the law requires the Governor to set the special election “forthwith.”
Crumpton wrote, “The Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School defines forthwith as, “A term found in contracts, court orders, and statutes, meaning as soon as can be reasonably done. It implies immediacy, with no excuses for delay.”
Crumpton explained, “Delaying the election for 21 months is not “forthwith”, this violates the law. It is that simple. The Governor should rescind his proclamation today, and call for the special election to be held in November of this year. The people who represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate should be there because it is the will of the people, not the will of the Montgomery “Good Ole Boy” network.””
The Alabama Legislative Black Caucus has passed a resolution calling on Gov. Bentley to set the Special Election this year.
State Representative Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) and State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R), both actual attorneys, have disputed Bentley’s interpretation that 21 months met the legal definition for “forthwith.” According to original reporting by The Alabama Political Reporter’s Josh Moon England called Bentley’s argument, “Absurd”. “This is really not a complicated piece of law,” England said. “It spells this out very clearly. In fact, it’s only complicated if you’re trying to break it.”
State Auditor Jim Zeigler has asked Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) to issue an opinion on the matter.
Zeigler wrote to AG Marshall, “The term “forthwith” has been judicially interpreted in other contexts to mean immediately or without delay. The Governor’s setting of the special election 22 months from now does not meet any definition of “forthwith” anywhere in any case. No reasonable person would consider 22 months as being forthwith and no court has so held. There is no practical or legal impediment to a setting of the Special Election forthwith.”
At this point, Ron Crumpton (D) and Senator Luther Strange (R), who was appointed by Gov. Bentley, are the only declared candidates for the US Senate seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions, who is now the US Attorney General. That could change when formal qualifying for the seat begins.
Crumpton challenged US Senator Richard Shelby (R) last year. Crumpton was the only Democrat who qualified for any statewide race, other than former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton (D) who ran unsuccessfully for President of the United States.