Gov. Kay Ivey 'evaluating' earlier special election for Senate seat held by Luther Strange
Newly appointed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange looks at Gov. Robert Bentley before Bentley signed the document officially appointing Strange to the U.S. Senate during a press conference, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Gov. Kay Ivey is considering setting a special election for Alabama's U.S. Senate seat that former Gov. Robert Bentley had delayed until late next year.
The vacancy, currently filled by Bentley-appointee Luther Strange, came when the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general.
As governor, Bentley had sole discretion on when to schedule the special election and he chose to include it in the next general election in November 2018.
With Ivey ascending to governor, there has been a new call for the special election to be set sooner.
Ivey's office said Wednesday she is "still evaluating" the idea and has not made a decision yet.
Bentley received criticism over the lateness of the special election with some saying Strange could become entrenched in the seat before ever being elected. State Auditor Jim Zeigler filed a lawsuit challenging Bentley's date for the special election.
State law calls for the governor to set the special election "forthwith." That wording left open the window to schedule the special election next year, Bentley has said.
Secretary of State John Merrill, the state's top election official, and the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus believe the election should be held before the 2018 cycle. The Legislative Reference Service, the bill-drafting and research office for lawmakers, has also made that determination.
Perry Hooper Jr., a former legislator from Montgomery who was among the finalists in Bentley's Senate selection process, called for Ivey to alter the election schedule.
"I hope Kay will take a hard look at that and do what, in my opinion, would be responsible and that's designate this election at an earlier part of the year," Hooper said.
Hooper also pointed to the fact that a special election was held in Kansas on Tuesday to fill the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, who was named earlier this year to be CIA director by President Trump.
A special election is also scheduled next week in Georgia to fill the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Tom Price, who has been named Health and Human Services director for Trump.
"I don't understand why Alabama has to be different from every other state in the United States," Hooper said.
The difference, however, is that Alabama's senate seat would require a statewide election while the special elections in Kansas and Georgia are only for a district within those states.
Bentley argued that holding a separate Senate election could cost the state up to $16 million for party primaries, possible runoffs and then a general election.