About the time Gov. Robert Bentley announced the special election to fill the seat of former state Sen. Ben Brooks, who was elected to a judgeship in Mobile County, state Rep. Jim Barton expectedly announced this week that he would run for Brooks’ Senate seat.
Barton, like Brooks a Mobile Republican, is chairman of the House General Fund budget committee and is a key member of legislative leadership. If he is elected to the upper chamber, House Speaker Mike Hubbard would have to appoint another House member to the coveted chairmanship.
Since it became apparent Brooks would win the judgeship after the primary, Barton has been preparing for the run and talking to consultants.
Brooks waited for months, even after he knew he was going to be a circuit judge, to resign from his Senate seat. Brooks was co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
With Bentley setting the primary election for Jan. 29, Senate Republicans could be down a member for some of the session that begins in February. The Republican supermajority, however, will be further buoyed by Sen. Jerry Fielding defecting from the Democratic Party and joining Republican ranks.
If there is no primary because there is only one candidate in each party, the general election will be on Jan. 29. If there is a need for a runoff in either primary, that would be on March 12. If not, and there are contested primaries, the general election will be on March 12.
Brooks resigned Tuesday and Bentley called the special election on Tuesday.
“This election timeline was designed to have a senator in place for District 35 as soon as possible,” Bentley said.
With no timeline in the law to call a special election, sometimes governors have waited weeks or even months to call a special election.
But Republicans want all of the members of their supermajority in place for the session. In the session earlier this year, Republicans lost a few key votes by a small margin.
Candidates must qualify with their respective parties by Dec. 12.
Barton, a restaurant owner, was elected to the Alabama House in 2001.
The Alabama District Attorneys Association recently recognized Barton as Legislator of the Year.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen