Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions advanced to the Republican runoff in his bid to regain his old Senate seat in Alabama.
Sessions will face off against former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville in the March 31 runoff after no Republican candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary, according to The Associated Press.
Despite Sessions holding the Senate seat for 20 years, the GOP primary race remained close as results came in Tuesday night, with Tuberville and Sessions rotating in and out of first place.
ADVERTISEMENTThe tight vote count underscores that Sessions could face a tough four-week slog as he tries to lock down the nomination. Sessions has the backing of fellow Alabama Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse pushes back schedule to pass spending bills Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump MORE, but other top Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (Ky.), have stayed out of the primary.
Sessions was ousted as attorney general in 2018 after his relationship with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE soured because of the former senator’s decision to recuse himself from the FBI investigation into Russia’s election meddling and the Trump campaign.
Trump’s relationship with Sessions has loomed over the race, but he’s largely kept his distance publicly during the Republican primary. Sessions and Tuberville, as well as Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief says he opposes invoking Insurrection Act for protests | White House dodges on Trump’s confidence in Esper | ‘Angry and appalled’ Mattis scorches Trump Republicans stand by Esper after public break with Trump Democrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard MORE (R-Ala.), who finished in third place, touted themselves during the primary as the candidate most aligned with Trump.
Tuberville, speaking to supporters on Tuesday night, referred to Sessions as a “cut and run” politician, an apparent reference to his relationship with Trump. “We’re going to finish what President Trump started when he looked at Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMcCabe, Rosenstein spar over Russia probe Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Rosenstein defends Mueller appointment, role on surveillance warrants MORE from across the table and said, ‘You’re fired,'” Tuberville added, according to multiple reports.
Whoever wins the runoff election will face off against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is widely viewed as the most vulnerable Democratic senator.
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Jones won his seat in 2017 when he beat GOP Senate nominee Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreSessions goes after Tuberville’s coaching record in challenging him to debate The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Sessions fires back at Trump over recusal: ‘I did my duty & you’re damn fortunate I did” MORE, who faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. Moore also ran again for the party’s nomination this year but lost on Tuesday night.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) on Tuesday night referred to both Tuberville and Sessions as “deeply flawed.”
“Just like we saw last time, this runoff will extend a bitter, divisive feud while Senator Jones will continue to outraise his Republican opponents and is focused on bringing people together,” DSCC spokeswoman Helen Kalla said in a statement.
The Alabama Senate race is ranked by The Cook Political Report as “leans Republican.”
Updated at 11:45 p.m.