Attorney asks Oklahoma Supreme Court to postpone election to fill Jim Inhofe's Senate seat

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A prominent state attorney is asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to postpone the upcoming special election to fill retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's seat.

Republican Attorney Stephen Jones is asking the high court to temporarily bar the Oklahoma State Election Board from accepting candidate filings for the U.S. Senate seat during the three-day filing window in mid-April.

He also is asking the court to block the Election Board, which is named in the lawsuit, from carrying through with the special election later this year.

More: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt sets special election to replace Sen. Jim Inhofe

Jones, who gained national prominence for representing Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, argues that a special election cannot be held until after Oklahoma's senior senator retires, which he plans to do early next year.

Jones said he is not acting on behalf of a client, but acting on behalf of himself. He clinched the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1990, and said he has a wealth of knowledge on Senate protocols and procedures.

Gov. Kevin Stitt last week set the special election to coincide with the primary and general election dates for statewide elections this year.

More: Sen. Jim Inhofe, 87, to step down after replacement elected

In his filing with the Supreme Court, Jones cites the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which details what happens in the event of U.Senate vacancies, and argues Stitt lacked the authority to set special election dates prior to Inhofe vacating the office.

"There's no vacancy now, and the 17th Amendment says when a vacancy happens," Jones said. "There's a couple of clear precedents that argue against what Mr. Inhofe and the governor are attempting to do."

He said federal law supersedes a legislative change Oklahoma state lawmakers made last year.

Republican state lawmakers approved and Stitt signed Senate Bill 959 last year that set rules for how a U.S. Senate vacancy would be filled in the instance of an "irrevocable resignation" or vacancy. The law stipulates that should a vacancy occur before March 1 in an even-numbered year, a concurrent special election would take place to coincide with regularly scheduled elections that year.

House Speaker Pro Tem Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, who co-authored that legislation, said the process Stitt is following to fill Inhofe's seat is identical to the process former Gov. Mary Fallin followed to fill the late Sen. Tom Coburn's seat in 2014. Coburn also announced his retirement but remained in his position through the end of the congressional session.

Jones says federal law stipulates the special election must take place at the next regularly scheduled statewide primary, runoff primary and general election following Inhofe's retirement on Jan. 3, 2023. In other words, the election would take place in 2024, Jones said.

Once Inhofe steps down, the governor would have 30 days to appoint someone to fill the vacant Senate seat until the special election the following year, Jones said.

The 30-day timeframe is stipulated in SB 959.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma attorney aims to postpone special election for Inhofe's seat