There’s nothing like a lost election, it seems, to inspire some political adjustments.
Democrat Doug Jones defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in a special election in December to fill the seat of U.S. Sen Jeff Sessions. President Donald Trump appointed Sessions to be U.S. Attorney General in 2017. His Senate term did not expire until January 2021.
Sessions resigned in February 2017 to take the appointment. In the interim, then-Gov. Robert Bentley appointed state Attorney General Luther Strange, a fellow Republican, to fill the opening. It was an appointment fraught with trouble. Bentley was under investigation for using his office to cover up an alleged affair with an assistant. Bentley resigned shortly after appointing Strange, whose office was investigating the matter.
The appointment of Strange didn’t sit well with voters. It appeared he took the appointment from a governor whom his office was investigating to advance his own political ambitions.
When Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey ascended to the governorship, she called a special election at the urging of Republican elected officials, including state Auditor Jim Zeigler.
So, Strange faced Moore in the Republican primary election and lost, setting up the Dec. 12 general election with Jones, who easily won the Democratic primary. Moore, a deeply flawed and divisive candidate, lost to Jones in an election that was closely watched around the country.
Though Moore is divisive even among Republicans because of his controversial stands on law and religion, not to mention allegations of misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s, GOP tribalism is in play. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, introduced a bill that requires a special election for U.S. Senate vacancies to coincide with the next scheduled general election. He said it would save the state money.
With so much time left in Sessions’ term, an appointed senator would have gained the power of incumbency without ever having been elected. Incumbency in politics is powerful. If in doubt, take a look at the men and women who are in office. Most have been there for many terms.
Clouse said he filed his bill in August, before the December special election. He claimed his bill is not an anti-Doug Jones bill. Maybe not, but the timing is suspicious.
Had Sessions’ term been close to expiration, a special election might not have been the best solution to filling the seat. But as it is, the people of Alabama should have the opportunity to choose their senator in a special election. The cost should not outweigh the voice of the people.