By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
Governor Robert Bentley has set the timeline for a special election to fill the District 11 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives left vacant by Jeremy Oden, who accepted the governor’s appointment to the state public service commission last month.
The timeline allows for a number of scenarios, depending on the number of candidates who qualify, as well as the possibility that one or both parties may need a runoff to settle on a single candidate.
Even though the 2013 legislative session begins on Feb. 5, the soonest a new representative can be elected for the District 11 seat is Feb. 12, leaving constituents without an elected representative in the House for at least a week.
District 11 covers portions of Cullman, Blount and Morgan Counties.
If the field is crowded with candidates and there has to be a runoff election, though, the entire 2013 session will be nearly finished before a District 11 representative has been chosen.
In the simplest scenario — one in which neither party qualifies more than a single candidate — there will be only a specially-called general election. That election would be held on Tuesday, Feb. 12 of next year.
If one or both parties do qualify more than one candidate, however, a special primary election will be necessary to winnow the field down to a single Republican and/or a single Democrat. If that’s the case, the primary would be held on Feb. 12.
If no runoff election is required following the primary, a special general election will be held on Tuesday, March 26. If a runoff is required, that election would take place on March 26, followed, finally, by the general election on Tuesday, May 7. With a legislative calendar requiring the 2013 regular session to end on or before May 21, it could leave the new representative little time to affect committee action on proposed bills during his first year.
Until qualifying ends Dec. 19 and all the candidates certified by Dec. 21, there’s no way to know which timeline the special election calendar will follow. Currently, only Cullman County Commission on Aging director Randall Shedd, a Republican, has publicly announced his intent to seek the District 11 seat.
“This election timeline was designed to have a representative in place for District 11 as soon as possible,” Bentley said in a release Wednesday. “The timeline gives candidates time to qualify, it allows voters time to learn about candidates, and it allows time for those who are unable to vote in person to arrange to vote by absentee ballot.”
Oden, who had served consecutive terms representing District 11 since 1998, left the legislature Nov. 30 after Bentley appointed him to fill a state public service commission seat left open after its former Republican commissioner, Twinkle Cavanaugh, defeated Lucy Baxley for the PSC chairman’s seat.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.