Court May Decide Special Election

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, has taken a stance on when he believes a replacement for Sen. Trent Lott should be elected.

His opinion is contrary to what Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, has told the state since Lott's original announcement in November that he would be stepping down before his term is completed.

Barbour said he believes the election should take place during 2008's general election. That opinion is shared by Secretary of State Eric Clark, who is a Democrat.

Hood's opinion was delivered to the governor and the two have talked by phone, but both sides agree a decision will most likely come from the courts.

Barbour's press secretary, Pete Smith, issued a statement on the governor's behalf:

"The governor talked to the attorney general and secretary of state, and the governor and secretary of state were willing to meet with the attorney general. But since all three have reviewed the statutes and made their positions clear, the attorney general did not see any point to have such a meeting."

Hood said it's a simple dispute over the interpretation of the law and not a partisan political battle. Hood said he believes the two sides will meet in court and resolve the issue quickly.

The governor's office says Barbour has received official notification of the vacancy in the U.S. Senate. And he has filed a "writ of election" to set the date for the special election as Nov. 4, 2008. Barbour says candidates have until Jan. 11 to qualify for the election.

Smith said the governor will have a formal process with specific rules from both the federal government and Mississippi law he must follow regarding Lott's resignation and the future appointment.

Smith said he does not rule out the possibility the final ruling on the election will be made by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The attorney general said the election has to be within 100 days from the time the governor receives the official letter of resignation.


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