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Qualifying deadline nears; will White make it?

Time is nearly up for candidates to officially qualify for the House District 72 special election, and one declared candidate has yet to do so.

The deadline for qualifying is this Friday at 5 p.m. According to a spokesperson for the Alabama Democratic Party, as of Wednesday morning Albert Turner Jr., of Marion, and Ralph A. Howard, of Greensboro, were the only candidates to have completed the qualification process with the party. No candidates have qualified with the state Republican Party.

Conspicuous by his absence is Uniontown mayor Phillip White, who announced in late January that he would be seeking the District 72 seat vacated by Bobby Singleton, who won election to the state Senate in January.

White’s qualification may be being delayed by the untimely death of Uniontown City Councilman Rev. Terry Bassett, who lost his life in a car accident last Friday March 11. White was attending Bassett’s memorial service in Bessemer Wednesday and could not be reached for comment.

In an interview with the Times on March 2, White expressed ambivalence about the delay by the governor’s office in declaring qualifying and polling dates for the special election. While affirming his desire to represent the people of District 72, he noted that the upcoming 2006 elections meant that whoever won the special election would have to begin campaigning for the same seat as soon as they were sworn in.

“I would prefer only running once,” he said. Whether this position is related to the delay in his qualification is unknown at this time.

Turner and Howard, who had expressed displeasure with the delay in establishing dates, visited Montgomery to qualify the same week dates were announced.

According to the state Democratic Party, potential candidates must fill out a pair of forms and file a $500 qualification fee to qualify to run for a state Representative’s office. The forms, one a “Qualification Form” and one a “Declaration of Candidate,” establish with the party the candidate’s intention to run, his or her contact information, and pledge to file another document, the Statement of Economic Interests, with the Alabama Ethics Commission. The Statement of Economic Interests is a safeguard against illegal campaign finances.

According to the website of the Alabama Secretary of State, candidates must meet the following minimum requirements to become a state Representative,: be a resident of the state for three years; be a resident of the district for one year prior to election; be at least 21 years of age at the time of certification; be a U.S. citizen and a registered voter.

Candidates will have 45 days to campaign between the qualifying deadline and the initial primary on May 3. A run-off and a general election, if necessary, would be held on June 14 and July 19, respectively. However, if no further candidates qualify, House Seat 72 would be filled the morning of May 4.

Turner currently serves as a Perry County Commissioner and has formerly worked with ADECA, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Howard is an ex-Marine and current public servant in Bibb County.