Alabama's new governor orders speedier election to replace Sessions
Lt Governor Kay Ivey waits to be sworn in shortly after Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced his resignation amid impeachment proceedings on accusations stemming from his relationship with a former aide in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday moved up the election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by now-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to December because she said the original plan to hold it in late 2018 was not soon enough to meet state law.

Ivey last week replaced fellow Republican Robert Bentley as governor after he resigned amid impeachment proceedings in the legislature.

Bentley had appointed Republican Luther Strange in February to fill the seat Sessions held before joining President Donald Trump's cabinet. Citing concerns about the cost of a special election, Bentley opted to wait until the 2018 general election for voters to elect Sessions' replacement.

The state's new governor said Alabama law required a speedier timetable. The primary election will now be held on Aug. 15 and the general vote will be Dec. 12, Ivey's office said.

“I promised to steady our ship of state. This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement U.S. senator as soon as possible,” Ivey said in an emailed statement.

Ivey' statement also said "following the law trumps the expense of a special election."

“As I’ve said for months, I’m a candidate and I’m ready to run whether the election is next month or next year," Strange said in an emailed statement.

The decision pleased Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler, a Republican who filed suit against Bentley last month seeking to force the special election.

In an interview with Reuters, Zeigler called Bentley's appointment of Strange "questionable." As Alabama's attorney general, Strange put a hold in November on the state legislature's impeachment proceedings against Bentley.

"We need a people-elected senator, not a senator appointed by a failed, disgraced former governor," Zeigler said.

In his statement, Strange said he agrees that the people of Alabama should decide who represents them in the U.S. senate.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Osterman)