MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey reversed one of the more controversial decisions made by former Gov Robert Bentley Tuesday, signing paperwork to move up the special election for one of Alabama's U.S. Senate seats.
"I promised to steady our ship of state. This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement US Senator as soon as possible," the governor explained. "The new U.S. Senate special election dates this year are a victory for the rule of law."
It was on Ivey's eighth day on the job that she flexed her political muscle and separated her administration from the former governor's, opting to move up the date.
"This special election will remove any cloud of doubt that might have been associated with the previous process used by the former governor," Ivey stated during a news conference at the Capitol.
The new 2017 date is the first available time for the special election, but it's still nearly a year ahead of the prior date set by Robert Bentley, who came under fire for pushing back the special election. Bentley was accused of a quid pro quo by appointing then-state Attorney General Luther Strange to the seat while Strange was investigating Bentley's office.
Strange released the following statement regarding the upcoming special election:
"It's the people's cloud of doubt that's prevailed," Ivey stated.
When he appointed Strange, Bentley contended that pushing back the election to 2018 to the June primary would save taxpayer dollars. State law states congressional vacancies must be filled 'forthwith', which many interpret to mean immediately.
"This is not a hastily-made decision. I consulted legal counsel, the finance director, Speaker McCutcheon, Senate President Del Marsh, and both budget chairmen since the cost to the General Fund could be great. However, following the law trumps the expense of a special election," Ivey explained.
"Surly there are costs with any election," she went on. "Ballots have to be printed, poll workers have to be hired, and locations must be procured, but what's really important is that the authority of the people is returned to the people to select their representative. Not allowing a vote by the people is even a greater cost."
Ivey stated the cost (which she's previously pegged at around $15 million) can be spread across two fiscal years. If the county also has a special election at the same time, it will reduce overall expenses.
"Remember the cost today is the same as it would have been if the former governor set the special election sooner," Ivey explained.
New special election dates for the U.S. Senate seat, vacated by current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions:
Primary: Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Run-off: Tuesday, September 26, 2017
General: Tuesday, December 12, 2017
According to the Secretary of State's Office, minor party or independent candidates must qualify by Tuesday, August 15, 2017, by 5 p.m. Candidates must obtain 35,412 signatures from registered voters.