02:07 - Source: CNN
Sessions' Senate replacement raises eyebrows

Story highlights

Luther Strange, who currently holds Sessions' vacant seat, says he will run

State lawmaker who sought to impeach former Gov. Bentley also announces bid

CNN —  

The race to replace Jeff Sessions in the US Senate is heating up.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has set dates for a special election to fill the seat left vacant when Sessions became US attorney general.

“I promised to steady our ship of state,” Ivey said in a statement Tuesday. “This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement US Senator as soon as possible.”

The primary is scheduled for August 15, followed by a run-off on September 26 and the general election on December 12.

Currently, former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange holds Sessions’ vacant seat. But Alabama law calls for a governor to call a special election to replace a senator – a law that former Gov. Robert Bentley ignored when he appointed Strange in February.

The Alabama code says that the governor should “forthwith order an election to be held,” to replace a US senator. But when Bentley appointed Strange, he said he would not call a special election in order to save the state money.

In Ivey’s press release, she acknowledged the potential cost to the state. “However,” she added, “following the law trumps the expense of a special election.”

All three branches of Alabama government have suffered high-profile political scandals in the last year. Bentley resigned last week after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges that he violated campaign finance and ethics laws. His resignation concluded a yearlong sex scandal involving a former staffer and multiple state investigations.

Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted last July on 12 felony ethics charges for soliciting money or business from companies and individuals, according to CNN affiliate WSFA.

In September, Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore was suspended for the remainder of his term for ordering probate judges to enforce a statewide ban on same-sex marriages. Moore’s order was seen as a dismissal of the federal law ratified in a landmark United States Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Strange intends to run

Strange confirmed Tuesday his intention to run for the Senate seat.

“As I’ve said for months, I’m a candidate and I’m ready to run whether the election is next month or next year,” he said in a statement sent to CNN.

The Republican senator said he would spend the time between now and the election working in Washington, “upholding Alabama values and working with President Donald Trump to drain the swamp and help make America great again.”

Strange’s appointment to the Senate raised eyebrows in Montgomery, where lawmakers had been led to believe that his office was investigating Bentley.

The move drew accusations of collusion and earned Bentley comparisons to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year federal sentence for soliciting bribes for the appointment to the Illinois Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.

So does Bentley critic

One of Strange’s challengers will be state Rep. Ed Henry, the Republican lawmaker who brought articles of impeachment against Bentley last year. Henry had previously suggested he was done with politics, but said 20 years from now he would regret not trying.

“As the last month has unfolded with the resignation of Robert Bentley as our governor… it became very apparent to my wife and myself that even though we desired to leave public life, the path before us was to continue our service to identify corruption and deal with it at the national level,” Henry told CNN Wednesday.

Ron Crumpton, a Democrat, also says he intends to run. He sought the Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Richard Shelby in November, but was unsuccessful.