Politics & Government

Update: Blackshear sworn in to represent Alabama's House District 80

By Chuck Williams

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

Chris Blackshear sworn in for Alabama House District 80

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The Alabama House got its newest representative, and the Phenix City Council lost one of its members Friday in a procedural move by the Alabama secretary of state.

Chris Blackshear, the Republican nominee to fill the Alabama House District 80 seat vacated by the death of Lesley Vance, was certified the winner and sworn in by Russell County Circuit Judge David Johnson Friday afternoon.

It was a bam-bam move made possible by the fact that his district, which includes portions of north Russell and southern Lee counties, has no Democratic challenger. Vance,  who died Nov. 3 after a lengthy illness, was also a Republican.

Blackshear, who was looking at an April 12 election, but that all changed when the Alabama Democratic Party failed to certify a candidate by the Friday deadline. That left Blackshear unopposed and made the special election called by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley unnecessary.

By taking office now, Blackshear will be in the state legislature on Tuesday when the session starts. He also had to resign his council seat, which will be filled by a vote of the three remaining council members and Mayor Eddie Lowe.

Blackshear, 42, said he was contacted by Secretary of State John Merrill's office after he won the Republican Primary on Jan. 16 with 63 percent of and was told there was a possibility of this if there was no Democratic opposition.

"The whole process has been, work through the Jan. 19 primary, hope you don't get in a runoff, but if you do, focus on that March 1 runoff, then focus on April 12," Blackshear said. "Now you back everything up and all of a sudden you are showing up in less than five days to start the session. And you really don't even know what door to walk in for the session. It is exciting, it is going to be a challenge, but I am looking forward to it."

The process that took Blackshear from the city council to the statehouse took less than three months."

"First, it is unfortunate that we are having to be here doing what we are doing because of the passing of Mr. Vance,"  Blackshear said. "I really think that God puts you in places where he wants you and not necessarily where you want to be. I am fortunate to have this opportunity to serve the citizens of District 80."

Blackshear works in Columbus, where he is director of account management for electronic payment processor TSYS. He entered local politics in 2012 when he challenged sitting citywide council member Jimmy Wetzel and won in a landslide with 71 percent of the vote. Blackshear was part of a ground that included Lowe that swept into office.

The resignation from city council came with mixed emotions, Blackshear said.

"I am grateful for having the opportunity to serve with you all over the last three years.  I look forward to

working with you in my new role as your State Representative and hope that together we can make Phenix

City, Russell and Lee Counties better for all citizens," he wrote.

The Phenix City Council will begin to discuss Blackshear's replacement at Monday's 3 p.m. work session.

"We are goiing to follow the charter," Lowe said. "A lot of people have been asking and calling. Now, we can officially start talking about."

If the council and mayor become deadlocked in selecting Blackshear's replacement, the charter gives the mayor an extra vote to break the tie. Lowe said he was unsure how long the process to name a replacement will take, but he wanted to move as quickly as possible.

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