You should not miss the unfolding drama regarding the lawsuit seeking to invalidate the re-election of Sen. Larry Means (D – Attalla) in SD 10. The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of write-in candidate Jack Lowe, Jr. against Secretary of State Nancy Worley. Lowe’s lawyer Mark White has asked Worley to declare Lowe the winner.
Here’s a primer to get you up to speed on the big picture:
- Incumbent Larry Means was unopposed in the general election and received 22,727 votes in Etowah County and more from parts of Cherokee County. Jack Lowe, Jr. received at least 586 write-in votes, though not all write-in votes have been tallied.
- Lowe wants Secretary of State Worley or the courts to invalidate Means’ election because Means failed to file detailed financial reports for the general election, despite a Sept. 7 opinion from Attorney General Troy King that stated even unopposed candidates must file detailed financial reports if they exceed the spending or contribution thresholds.
- Means best defense so far appears to be that someone in the Secretary of State office told him he did not have to file. SoS Worley says this is not true. (Helpful tip: when you talk to someone in customer service, write down the name of the person you talked to.)
- Means is one of the six conservative Democratic senators who have publicly expressed a willingness to caucus with the twelve Republican senators, which would give the conservative coalition a slim 18-17 majority over the so-called Barron Democrats. If the election results were overturned and the conservation Senate coalition lost Means, it would throw doubt over their ability to form a majority – especially if Lowe was somehow proclaimed winner. Lowe is vice-president of the Alabama New South Coalition’s local chapter. The New South Coalition was founded by Sen. Hank Sanders (D – Selma), a Barron ally. If the seat were to switch from Means to Lowe, that seat’s organizing vote would presumably change from supporting the conservative coalition to supporting the Barron Democrats.
- A similar suit had previously been filed by Mark Montiel to disqualify four incumbent Democratic senators, Lowell Barron (Fyffe), Zeb Little (Cullman), Hank Sanders (Selma), and Roger Bedford (Russellville), for not filing similar financial reports for the primary elections. (FWIW, Mark Montiel had been defeated by Troy King in the Republican primary for the Attorney General nomination and has filed suit in a number of high-profile cases.)
- A defining difference between the circumstances of the two lawsuits is that the four so-called Barron Democrats behaved in accordance with an Attorney General’s opinion (from 1990 by then-AG Siegelman) that unopposed candidates did not have to file such reports. Troy King’s Sept. 7 differing opinion came after the primary, and before Means should have filed his reports for the general election. Also, there are a number of Republican senators in the same boat as Barron, Little, Sanders, and Bedford, that Montiel did not include in his lawsuit.
- Could Means be disqualified? Yes. Judge Pamela Millsaps won a Republican primary race in June but was disqualified because she missed a filing deadline. DaVon Grey’s Democratic primary victory for Mobile County sheriff was overturned for the same reason. Then-Rep. Sundra Escott-Russell filed one day late in 1990, her victory was not certified, and the governor called for a special election. (She was the only candidate to qualify for the second election.)
It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where his election would be overturned and Means would have, at best, a second election to try to secure the seat. He would presumably be a large favorite to win if he were in a second election. But many newly-interested parties would be looking at this race believing that it could be the deciding vote in an 18-17 majority for one side or the other for who controls the Senate. For who makes the Senate committee assignments. For who controls the flow of legislation in the Senate.
And then, as Gerald Dial might tell you, you just can’t be sure how it would turn out.