MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Harri Anne Smith, I-District 29, a one-time Republican turned Independent who has spent two decades serving as a state senator for Alabama's Wiregrass residents, confirmed Tuesday she's retiring and will not seek re-election.
"We all know there is a time and a season for everything," Smith said in a statement released to the media. "Twenty years ago, the citizens of the Wiregrass gave me the great honor to represent them in the Alabama Senate. Since that time, I have tried, through good times and bad, to put people first and give them a voice..."
Smith entered Alabama politics in 1998, upsetting incumbent Sen. Chip Bailey as he sought re-election. She served her constituents as a Republican for a decade before causing a rift with the state's GOP.
Smith's decision to endorse then-mayor of Montgomery Bobby Bright in his 2008 Democratic bid for Congress brought about a stiff response from the state party, which blocked her attempt to run for re-election as a Republican in 2010.
"I never imagined, having been a lifelong Republican, that a few extremists could manipulate the party and keep me off the ballot," Smith said, "but at the end of the day, the people had the last word."
Smith mounted a write-in campaign and won the race by a nearly 10-point margin to become the only sitting Independent in the Senate.
Smith's troubles continued in 2010. In October of that year Milton McGregor, owner of Alabama's largest casino, as well as four state senators including Smith, and several lobbyists were indicted on federal charges accusing them of vote buying on a bill to legalize electronic bingo.
The case went to trial, which resulted in acquittals for every defendant.
Undaunted, the senator served out her fourth term, then launched a successful bid for a fifth term in 2014.
Smith points to several accomplishments made during her two decades in office. Among them are tort reform, legislation to honor POW-MIA heroes, and protecting funding for senior services including Meals on Wheels.
In retiring, Smith says she looks forward to spending more time with her husband, Charlie, as he faces health challenges.