By John Celock
Alabama’s new governor has decided to send state voters to the polls to fill a U.S. Senate this year, reversing a decision made by her predecessor.
Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced Tuesday that there will be a special election for the U.S. Senate seat that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions vacated earlier this year. In February, former Gov. Robert Bentley (R) named Republican Luther Strange to the seat and announced a November 2018 special election for the remainder of Sessions’ term, which expires in 2021. Ivey, who replaced Bentley last week, said that her decision was based on state law.
“I promised to steady our ship of state. This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement U.S. senator as soon as possible,” Ivey said in a statement. “The new U.S. Senate special election dates this year are a victory for the rule of law.”
Under Ivey’s decision, voters will head to the polls on August 15 for the first round of the primary, with a Sept. 26 primary runoff on the schedule. The general election will be held on Dec. 12. Under Senate rules, the winner of the special election will take office once Alabama election officials certify the election result.
Ivey said that she consulted with legislative leaders before making the decision, noting the cost of the special election. She stressed that she wanted to follow state law.
Ivey became governor last week, following Bentley’s resignation after pleading guilty on criminal charges related to using state resources to assist in his extramarital affair. Bentley’s appointment of Strange to the Senate was controversial, given Strange’s decision as state attorney general to delay an investigation by his office into Bentley’s behavior as governor.
Strange has indicated that he would run in this year’s special election. Other potential Republican candidates for the Senate include suspended state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Senate President Pro Temp Del Marsh, former state Rep. Perry Hooper, state Sen. Trip Pittman and state Sen. Slade Blackwell. State Rep. Ed Henry has announced that he would run in the GOP primary.