Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions will face a runoff in the Republican primary in the race to win back the U.S. Senate seat he vacated to join the Trump administration, the Associated Press projected. Sessions appears to be essentially tied with Tommy Tuberville, a former college football coach.
As of 11:30 p.m. with 51.4 percent reporting, Sessions led with 129,497 votes (32.5 percent) to Tuberville’s 122,713 (30.8 percent). Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore trailed at about 7 percent. The winner will face Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who was uncontested in the Democratic primary. Since Alabama is a deep-red state, either Sessions or Tuberville is almost certain to defeat Jones in November.
Tuesday’s incoming results will likely set up a four-week runoff between Sessions and Tuberville after a campaign focused on which Republican was most loyal to Trump.
“We’re going to overtime, and I know someone who knows how to win in overtime,” Tuberville said in a speech Tuesday evening, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. “We’re going to finish what President Trump started when he looked at Jeff Sessions from across the table and said, ‘You’re fired.'”
Tuberville is running as an outsider who will help implement Trump’s agenda, but Sessions has been extremely loyal to Trump. He was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump in the 2016 primary, and he resigned from the Senate in 2017 to become U.S. attorney general.
Yet the AG attracted the president’s ire by recusing himself during the Russia investigation after he was pressured to do so. Sessions had met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak as part of his duties as a senator, and he did not mention it during his confirmation hearings when asked about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Liberals made a federal case about this oversight, and even House Republicans called for his recusal. Yet the president seemed to think Sessions was abandoning him by recusing himself.
When the former attorney general announced his Senate campaign on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” he pledged to support Trump’s agenda.
“I believe in this agenda. I was for this agenda before President Trump announced. I supported it when he was president. When he was running for president, I supported him. If I return to the Senate, no senator in the Senate will be more effective in advancing Trump’s agenda than I would be,” he said.
When asked about the Democrats’ impeachment push, which was then in the inquiry stage, Sessions insisted there wasn’t “anything close to an impeachment case. I just cannot see an impeachment case here. It’s just been a continuous political attack on him from day one.”
Sessions and Tuberville will face a nasty runoff but either one will still likely beat Jones in November. Jones only won because of the devastating sexual assault claims against Roy Moore, who will not be the Republican nominee this time around.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.