Jim Bennett

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Jim Bennett
Jim Bennett.jpg
Alabama Secretary of State
Incumbent
In office
July 31, 2013 - present
Term ends
January 19, 2015
Years in position 1
PartyRepublican
PredecessorBeth Chapman (R)
Compensation
Base salary85,248
Elections and appointments
Next generalNovember 4, 2014 (Ineligible)
Appointed2013
Appointed byGovernor Robert Bentley (R)
Term limitsTwo terms
Prior offices
Alabama Commissioner of Labor
2012-2013
Alabama Secretary of State
1993-2003
Alabama State Senate
1983-1993
Education
Bachelor'sJacksonville State University
Master'sUniversity of Alabama
Personal
Place of birthRed Oak, Iowa
ReligionMethodist
Websites
Office website
Jim Bennett is the current Republican Alabama Secretary of State. He was appointed to the position by Governor Robert Bentley (R), effective July 31, 2013, to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of twice-elected officeholder Beth Chapman. Chapman decided to step down early in order to take a job in the private sector. Bennett will serve as Chapman's replacement until a successor is formally elected by voters on November 4, 2014. The appointment is effective through to January 19, 2015, when Chapman's term was set to expire. Bennett will not run for a full term in the office when it comes up for election in 2014.[1]

At the time that Bennett returned to the secretary of state's office in July 2013, he had been nearly a year into his retirement, after 34 years of service to the state government of Alabama. His past experience holding public office includes a decade serving as secretary of state and another fifteen years prior that as a Democratic member of the state legislature.[2]

Bennett had previously said that out of the several positions he occupied throughout his career, his favorite was secretary of state.[3] During his tenure as Alabama's chief elections officer, he focused on campaign finance transparency and boosting the integrity of elections through the oft-debated method of voter roll purges.[1] He was elected to his first term as secretary of state on the Democratic ticket, but was re-elected as a Republican, the party with which he remains affiliated today. He recalled that Republicans were more attuned to the issue positions he championed as secretary of state, such as cracking down on voter fraud. "Now you almost have to be a Republican to get elected to statewide office," he added in a 2012 interview.[4]

Bennett was the Alabama Commissioner of Labor up until his retirement in the fall of 2012. He was first appointed in 2003 by Governor Bob Riley and was kept on by Bentley after he became governor.[5] As the commissioner served at the pleasure of the governor, Bennett was not subject to fixed terms or reappointment. However his office was eliminated as a result of a department merger in the fall of 2012.[4] "Jim Bennett has been around through many of Alabama's toughest and best years," said Tom Surtees, Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director, who edged Bennett out to become Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Labor on October 1, 2012 following the merger.[2]

After retiring from public office, Bennett continued to serve as chairman of the board of Jacksonville State University and to operate his business, the History Resource Group., which preserves and protects Alabama's historical assets.[3]

Biography

Bennett is a graduate of Jacksonville State University and the University of Alabama, where he earned a bachelor's and master's degree, respectively.

Before being elected to public office, he was director of public information for the Alabama Labor Council, AFL-CIO, Birmingham-Southern College and Brookwood Medical Center. He also worked as a reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald.[6]

Although he retired from public office in the fall of 2012, Bennett continued to serve as chairman of the board of Jacksonville State University. He also founded and runs the History Resource Group., a business dedicated to preserving and promoting Alabama's historical assets.[3]

Education

  • B.S. degree from Jacksonville State University
  • M.A. from the University of Alabama

Political career

Secretary of State (1993-2003, 2013-present)

Bennett was appointed secretary of state by Governor Robert Bentley (R), effective July 31, 2013, to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of twice-elected officeholder Beth Chapman. Chapman decided to step down early in order to take a job in the private sector. Bennett will serve as Chapman's replacement until a successor is formally elected by voters on November 4, 2014. The appointment is effective through to January 19, 2015, when Chapman's term was set to expire.

The appointment was a homecoming of sorts for Bennett, since he had served previously in the role from 1993 to 2003. The first occasion on which Bennett was appointed-then by ex-Gov. Jim Folsom-to fill a vacancy in the office, Bennett was a Democrat, and he went on to win his first term as secretary of state as a Democrat.[7] In the next election, however, in 1998, he ran as a Republican, the party he remains a member today. At the time of his retirement in 2012, Bennett recalled the circumstances of the switch, saying that Republicans were more attuned to his issue positions, such as cracking down on voter fraud, adding, "Now you almost have to be a Republican to get elected to statewide office."[4] When he retired from state office, Bennett noted in an interview that out of the several positions he occupied throughout his career, his favorite was secretary of state.[3] He said he thrived in the important and at times controversial role of chief election officer.

Labor Commissioner (2003-2012)

Bennett was originally appointed in 2003 by Governor Bob Riley. When current Governor Robert Bentley took office in 2011, he retained Bennett as state labor commissioner. As the commissioner served at the pleasure of the governor, he was not subject to fixed terms or reappointment, but his position was eliminated in the fall of 2012.[4] "Jim Bennett has been around through many of Alabama's toughest and best years," said Tom Surtees, Alabama Department of Industrial Relations Director, and became Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Labor on Monday, October 1, when a recently passed merger took place.[2]

Purging voter rolls

One of the primary issues that inspired Bennett to switch his allegiance to the Republican Party was his resolve to boost the integrity of the state election system by purging dead voters from the rolls. "It upset a lot of people to clean up the voter rolls because they had been elected under that system for so many years and they were reluctant to change things," he said.[3]

Public engagement

The secretary of state receives and maintains the campaign finance reports filed by candidates for statewide office and for the State Legislature. According to an interview given almost a decade after leaving the secretary's office,[3] Bennett's instincts as a former newspaper reporter led him to believe that the majority of voters would not see the reports so long as they remained available only in hard copies at the capitol. His subsequent decision to expand access by scanning the documents and posting them on the secretary of state's website was popular with the public, however, it made some state officials uncomfortable. Bennett noted in the interview that "The Legislature got very upset at the time, but they backed off quickly when people objected to them objecting."

State Legislature (1978-1993)

He represented Jefferson County in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1978 to 1983. He won a special election for the state Senate in 1983, where he served until 1993.

Issues

Alabama Constitution

Bennett gave an interview with the Associate Press upon his retirement in the fall of 2012 in which he discussed the half century he spent around Alabama government, first as a reporter at the height of the civil rights movement, and then through his 34 year career in public office. Bennett reflected on his long-term advocacy for still unrealized revision of Alabama's 1901 Constitution that would transfer power from the capital to the counties. "It's just silly for the Legislature to spend all the time it does on local issues," he said.[3]

Personal

Bennett and his wife, Andrea, live in the Birmingham metropolitan area.[8]

Recent news

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See also

External links

References

Political offices
Preceded by
Beth Chapman (R)
Alabama Secretary of State
2013–present
Succeeded by
N/A