Sen. Zeb. Little, D-Cullman, says a lawsuit that seeks to remove him and three other Democrat senators from the November 7 ballot is “outrageous” and a blatant attempt to disenfranchise voters in the Fourth District.

Little, Senate majority leader, is seeking election to a third term. His opponent in the general election is Winston County businessman Harold Sachs.

The lawsuit, recently filed by Mark Montiel, a Montgomery-based attorney, on behalf of Benjamin Russell Wood of Autaugaville, seeks to remove Little, along with Lowell Barron, president pro tem of the Senate; Hank Sanders, Senate education committee chairman; and Roger Bedford, Senate deputy chairman of the Finance and Taxation General Fund, from the general election ballot on the grounds they allegedly failed to file proper campaign financial disclosure reports during the Democratic Party primary election in June.

Montiel lost to incumbent Attorney General Troy King during the Republican Party primary in June.

Little said Friday, the suit is politically motivated and is tied directly to a state Senate race lost by former Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville.

Dial claims his opponent in that race, Kim Benefield, received $270,161 worth of advertising from the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, after the PAC received its primary funding by way of contributions from those Senate races. Dial claims the funding including $180,000 from Little, $75,000 from Barron, $230,000 from Sanders, and $100,000 from Bedford. He claims none of the four senators filed campaign finance reports before the Democratic Party primary that showed the transfer of contributions to the PAC.

Little says he followed the law regarding financial disclosures.

“An attorney general’s ruling in 1990 stated that if you are a candidate for state office and you have no opposition and your name is not on the ballot, you do not have to file a 45-day finance report. It’s a rule that has been followed by Democrats and Republicans alike for the past 16 years,” Little said. “That same ruling resulted in the creation of a form called a waiver, which candidates for public office can file in lieu of a finance report and that is what I filed.”

The suit contends an opinion issued in Sept. by King in response to questions posed by Dial, states candidates who fail to file campaign contributions prior to primaries could be subject to forfeiture of the election and criminal penalties. Little said he believes, as other do, that the September opinion could be applicable to future elections, but was not intended to be retroactive to include the upcoming general election.

A hearing on the lawsuit has been scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday in Prattville.

Neither Little nor the other senators affected by the lawsuit have been named as parties to the suit, but Little said he has sought legal representation nonetheless.

“If the consequences of this lawsuit weren’t so serious I wouldn’t give it a second thought, but because Mark Montiel is trying to take away the right of the people of this district to decide who is going to be their senator, I’m exploring my legal options and I’ve had to obtain the services of legal counsel,” Little said. “It’s outrageous to me that a judge in South Alabama could decide who will represent this district in the state Senate without an election being held. It’s not fair to the people that so frivolous of a lawsuit seeks to disenfranchise them from the ability to elect their next state senator.”

Depending on how the judge in Autauga County rules, Little said it’s possible he could win the election on Nov. 7 and not be certified the winner.

“The ballots have been printed. My name is on the ballot and an untold number of people have already cast absentee ballots in that election. It’s ridiculous,” Little said. “Candidates for both parties have been filing waivers in this manner for years, yet we’re being singled out for what is clearly political reasons. I expect the lawsuit to be judge frivolous and the people to prevail, but it’s a very serious thing.”

Little said he plans to be at the hearing Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Little’s opponent in the general election, Harold Sachs, offered no opinion on the lawsuit when questioned about it Friday.

“I don’t know the facts of it. I know about it. I read it in the newspaper, but I have no personal opinion. That’s a legal issue,” Sachs said. “I don’t know if they did the right thing or not. All I know is what I read in the paper.”

Tim Howe, executive director of the Alabama Republican Party, said the lawsuit is unrelated to the party.

“I can’t speak to the substance of the lawsuit. Republicans believe in open and honest government, and we just want to see election officials follow the required rule of law in all aspects regardless of the political party,” Howe said. “The courts will ultimately decide this matter.”

Jim Spearman, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, referred to the suit as another partisan attack by Republicans to try and win control of the House and Senate.

“They can’t do it at the ballot box because they are wrong for Alabama, so they are going to try and win it in the courts,” Spearman said. “The current attorney general stated in his opinion it was not meant to be retroactive. This is an attempt on their part to find a loop-hole. It’s a shame that these senators are now going to have to seek legal counsel to represent their interests and the interests of the people they represent. That’s money out of their pocket and it’s just not right.”

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