Rep. Jo Bonner's decision to quit Congress for a job at the University of Alabama opens up a solid Republican district where Mitt Romney took 62 percent of the vote. Any special election can and will draw a crowd of elected officials with little to lose -- the just-completed special election in South Carolina's First District drew 16 candidates -- but Republicans have their eyes on five local elected officials they think have the best chance to replace Bonner. They include:
• State Sen. Trip Pittman, who owns a tractor company in Daphne, in Baldwin County. Pittman won his Senate seat in a special election in 2007 and won re-election in 2010 without opposition. Pittman was a delegate for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, in 2012 and has a decent following among tea party Republicans. He could potentially self-fund, or at least have some seed money for a bid, Republican strategist Brent Buchanan said.
• State Sen. Bill Hightower, who owns a corporate consulting firm in Mobile. He's just coming off a race in which he beat a state representative to claim his Senate seat.
• Former state Sen. Bradley Byrne, the former chancellor of the Alabama Community College system, was a favorite of establishment Republicans when he ran for governor in 2010. He led the primary by a narrow margin, but he lost the runoff to Robert Bentley, the eventual winner, by a 12-point margin.
• State Rep. Chad Fincher, of northern Mobile County, made a name for himself earlier this year in his push for voucher legislation, which was signed into law in March. Fincher saw some backlash from Democrats, but the move boosted him in conservative circles.
• State Sen. Rusty Glover, a high school teacher, won his seat in 2006 in a crowded five-way primary. He raised almost $300,000 for that campaign and could be a strong fundraiser.
"If all these folks jump in, I would be shocked if there wasn't a runoff. But this area has a tendency to weed folks out," Buchanan said, noting that he has discussed the seat with several potential Republican candidates already today. AL.com first reported Bonner's plans to quit at 1:30 p.m.
Bentley will select a date for the special election once the seat has been vacated.
-- Reid Wilson contributed.