Sessions files to run in GOP primary to reclaim the seat he gave up to become Donald Trump’s attorney general
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
MONTGOMERY (CFP) — In 2017, Jeff Sessions gave up the U.S. Senate seat he had held for 20 years to become President Donald Trump’s first attorney general.
Now, after parting with the president on unhappy terms, Sessions wants that job back — but he’ll have to fight through Trump and a field of Alabama Republicans to get it.
Sessions, 72, who represented Alabama in the Senate from 1997 until 2017, announced November 7 that he will file the paperwork to run for his old seat, which is currently held by Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones.
“It’s not ‘my seat’ in the Senate, but I believe I have something to give,” Sessions said during an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show where he announced his Senate run. “I have some convictions that I think need to be pushed.”
“We need to get some of the Republicans moving. They haven’t been pushing hard enough to advance the Trump agenda,” he said.
Sessions also released a campaign ad which made it clear that he will try to run for the Senate as a pro-Trump candidate, despite his rocky tenure and messy split from the administration.
Watch Jeff Session’s campaign ad at the end of this story.
“When I left President Trump’s Cabinet, did I write a tell-all book? No. Did I go on CNN and attack the president? Nope. Have I said a cross word about our president? Not one time,” Sessions said. “I’ll tell you why. First, that would be dishonorable. I was there to serve his agenda, not mine. Second, the president is doing a great job for America and Alabama, and he has my strong support.”
With Sessions in the race, the looming question is how loudly and often Trump might weigh in against a man he repeatedly dismissed as “weak” and disappointing before eventually firing him.
In the wake of Sessions’s interview with Carlson, Trump told reporters Friday that he has not decided whether to get involved in the race and that Sessions “said very nice things about me.” While not endorsing Sessions, he did not unload on him, either.
On Saturday, the president is visiting Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-LSU football game, putting the state’s Senate race top of mind, particularly for Sessions’s new primary rivals who may be vying for demonstrations of Trump’s favor.
Sessions’s last-minute decision to run — on the final day to file — shakes up a Republican primary race that had already attracted eight candidates, including U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne from Mobile, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Secretary of State John Merrill, and Roy Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice who lost the seat to Jones in 2017 amid allegations of sexual conduct with underage girls.
Perhaps most affected is Byrne, who gave up his House seat to run for the Senate and could now end up out of office if he can’t beat Sessions, a proven vote-getter who has won five statewide races.
Byrne made it clear that Sessions’s fractured relationship with Trump will be part of the upcoming race.
“Alabama deserves a Senator who will stand with the President and won’t run away and hide from the fight,” Byrne said on Twitter.
Tuberville made the same point, calling Sessions “a career politician” who “failed the President at his point of greatest need.”
“[President] Trump said it best when he called Jeff Sessions ‘a disaster’ as AG and an ’embarrassment to [Alabama],” Tuberville said on Twitter.
Trump forced Sessions out as attorney general in 2018 after criticizing him for months for recusing himself from overseeing the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The president called Sessions “weak” and said he regretted elevating him to the post.
Sessions’s candidacy did draw a quick endorsement from Alabama’s senior U.S. Senator, Republican Richard Shelby, who said Sessions would be “formidable candidate.”
“Jeff Sessions is a friend. I worked with him every day up here for 20 years,” Shelby said “He’s a man of integrity. Of course, he’ll have to run his own race, and that’s up to the people of Alabama.”
Sessions’s return is the latest twist in a topsy turvy political saga set off by his resignation to join Trump’s Cabinet.
Then-Governor Robert Bentley appointed Republican Luther Strange to the vacant seat. But when Bentley resigned amid a sex scandal, his successor, Governor Kay Ivey, ordered a special election to fill the vacancy, and Moore defeated Strange for the Republican nomination, despite Trump’s vocal support of Strange.
After Moore’s campaign imploded in scandal, Jones won a narrow victory, become the first Democrat to win a Senate race in the Yellowhammer State in 25 years.
Trump weighed in on the race twice, first to try to help Strange beat Moore and then to try to help Moore beat Jones, neither of which worked.
If Jones loses, the new senator would be the fourth person in four years to hold the seat, in a state that previously had not had a Senate vacancy in 20 years.
Jones is considered to be the most endangered 2020 Senate Democrat, running in a state Trump carried by 28 points, but is likely to benefit from turmoil in the Republican primary.
Watch Jeff Session’s new campaign ad:
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