Governor Robert Bentley reiterated this week he will, if necessary, appoint the winner of a Houston County Commission race if there are legal issues with the election process.
Four candidates are seeking to fill the unexpired term of Phil Forrester. They include John Gormley, Melinda McClendon, Nathan Mathis, and Susan Wilkins. Forrester died in March after an illness of several months. He had represented District 4 since 1997 when he was appointed by then-governor Fob James.
Some say such a special election is illegal---a contention businessman Richard Tally claims has been upheld by the courts. He and others believe the position must be appointed by the governor. Tally told Houston County Commissioners in early April he would not seek the office because the election is against the law.
However, Bentley is prepared to tap the next commissioner. "I will appoint the person elected," reiterated the governor during a visit to Dothan earlier this week. So, far nobody has filed a court challenge to a special election. Tally, who lost to Forrester in the 2010 race, said he has no plans to do so.
Meanwhile, Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver said he believes a special election is legal. However, the commission has asked lawmakers to pass a bill that would remove any doubt. "I'm not sure it (the bill) will make it through this year because of time constraints" Culver said. The regular session is set to end later this month.
The election will be held May 22 and a runoff, if necessary, July 10.