By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Sunday, state Auditor Jim Zeigler announced his opposition to bills that would end special elections when there is a vacancy in the U.S. Senate and the Legislature.
Currently, Alabama is holding a special election for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions. Republican Roy Moore is running against former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones on Dec. 12. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley had appointed Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to fill the seat.
Republican voters went to the polls on September 26 and voted for Moore over the former governor’s hand-picked favorite. Under pre-filed legislation in the Alabama Legislature, the governor’s favorite would serve until the next regular election, and the people would have no say in the matter. Senate Bill 18 has been introduced by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville. Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, meanwhile has introduced Senate Bill 15 that would do the same thing for Alabama legislators, both the House and the Senate.
State Auditor Zeigler said that any proposal that abolishes the special election “goes against the grain of the populist movement nationally and in Alabama.”
Zeiger said had the legislation been in effect right now, Strange, who was appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley to the seat in February, but who lost September’s GOP runoff against Moore, would still be in office and not having to worry about an election until next year.
Bentley originally set that special election for the 2018 regular election next November; Zeigler, however, filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County circuit court in March requesting an immediate special election after Bentley appointed Strange.
Bentley, however, resigned coincidentally after being reprimanded by the Alabama Ethics Commission based on a complaint originally filed by Zeigler, rather than be impeached. The new governor, Kay Ivey, settled the lawsuit by setting the special election for December 12 and the GOP primary on August 15.
“The problem is, by leaving the U.S. Senator around for the next general election, you are depending on the governor to make a good appointment,” Zeigler, who supported Moore in the runoff, said. “You are also removing the power of the people to choose a U.S. Senator other than a temporary interim senator.”
Zeigler added, “It’s a trade-off. It would save money to not have a Special Election, no question about it. But at what costs in terms of the people’s ability to elect the U.S. Senator rather than appoint a Senator? Representative government costs money to conduct these elections. That’s a cost of a Democratic Republic.”
SB15 is a constitutional amendment, so if it passes the Legislature, then the people of Alabama would get to vote it up or down, presumably, in the 2018 general election. Dial’s bill – stripping the people’s right to have special elections for U.S. Senate, would be enacted without a vote of the people.
Zeigler is exploring running as a Republican for governor in 2018, or he may seek re-election as state auditor.
Rusty Glover is running for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.
Gerald Dial is running for the Republican nomination for commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.
The 2018 Legislative Session begins on Jan. 9, 2018.
The major party primaries will be on June 5, 2018.