- The Washington Times
Thursday, November 7, 2019

The news that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is likely to run for his former Alabama Senate seat is roiling the Republican Party, with President Trump and others making their opposition to Mr. Sessions’ candidacy clear.

“Jeff Sessions is one of the reasons I decided to get off the sidelines and into the race for Senate,” Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville said. “He’s been out of ‘The Swamp’ for less than two years and now he’s itching to go back.”

Sessions, who would be 73 when he returned to the Senate, is scheduled to appear on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show Thursday night, where it is believed he will formally announce his candidacy. The filing deadline for candidates is Friday.

The news does not sit well with Mr. Trump, according to The New York Times, which reported he has informed Mr. Sessions he will be attacked if he runs.

The anger Mr. Trump, Mr. Tuberville and other Republicans have with Mr. Sessions is rooted in his almost immediate decision to recuse himself from the Russian collusion investigation when Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Sessions attorney general.

Long considered a stalwart conservative, Trump loyalists came to regard Mr. Sessions as a craven Washington figure for failing to defend the president.

“As attorney general, Jeff Sessions had his chance to have President Trump’s back and take on the establishment politicians and he failed,” Mr. Tuberville said. “If we’re going to help President Trump change this country, then we have to stop recycling the same old politicians.”

Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne, who also is running for the seat and recently led GOP fundraising with $2.5 million cash on hand, issued a similar statement, although he did not name Mr. Sessions.

“From the Mueller investigation to this impeachment, President Trump has been under constant attack,” Mr. Byrne said. “I won’t sit back and watch them destroy our country. Alabama deserves a senator who will stand with the president and won’t run away and hide from the fight.”

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who won the special election in 2017 when Mr. Sessions became attorney general, is rated the most vulnerable senator seeking re-election next year. Alabama is a Republican-leaning state, with GOP candidates winning the governor and other statewide races by commanding margins.

Mr. Jones was aided immeasurably in his bid by revelations Republican Roy Moore, a former state supreme court justice, had behaved inappropriately with young women as a young lawyer and alleged sexually assaulted one.

Those charges, which Mr. Jones denied, buried his campaign and allowed Mr. Jones to capture 49.9 percent of the vote, beating Mr. Moore by 1 percentage point.

While Mr. Jones has positioned himself much closer to the center than congressional Democrats’ left-wing coastal leadership, he has been attacked by Alabama conservatives as too liberal. In particular, they point to Mr. Jones’ opposition to the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh as a prime example.

Mr. Moore declared his 2020 candidacy in June, a move the Republican Party has desperately tried to derail. Although few people consider Mr. Moore to have any realistic shot at winning, he would be certain to attract national attention the GOP would prefer to avoid.

Mr. Byrne enjoys considerable establishment support, whereas Mr. Tuberville is famous for being the former head football coach at Auburn University and is making his first run at public office.

Each campaign has touted polls claiming their man is a frontrunner, although a recent tally showed Mr. Tuberville in the lead and Mr. Byrne dominating only in the area around Mobile, which is his district.

Other GOP candidates in the race include Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and state Rep. Arnold Mooney.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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