by Sam Spence
There will not be a special election to replace Bobby Harrell, state election officials announced today. The former House Speaker, who pleaded guilty to ethics violations last week, will remain on the November 4 ballot for House District 114 voters, but regardless of how many votes he receives, he will not be eligible to win the election.
The issue over whether there would be a special election was determined by the contents of Harrell's withdrawal letter. Despite earlier word from state attorneys that a provision in state law governing withdrawals and replacement candidates may apply in this situation, "that law requires the candidate to withdraw by sworn affidavit stating the reason for his or her withdrawal," said State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. Without that affidavit, claiming a reason for withdrawal that could have triggered a special election, the election proceeds on November 4.
On Thurs. Oct. 23, Harrell released his resignation letter. "Pursuant with the court agreement, I am informing you that I am withdrawing from the 2014 election and resigning my office," Harrell's letter read. The letter refers to the plea agreement reached between state solicitors and Harrell, who pleaded guilty to ethics violations on Oct 22. That agreement includes requirements that Harrell resign, not seek office for three years, and cooperate in other investigations.
On Friday, local Democrats criticized speculation that the state might call for a special election, noting that absentee voting had been going on for weeks before Harrell plead guilty. State Dems applauded the announcement today, saying "the rule of law has prevailed."
The decision today clears the way for the election to continue between Democrat Mary Tinkler and Green Party nominee Sue Edward. Before this year, Democrats had not challenged Harrell's re-election in over a decade.