AL-Sen: On Monday, multiple unnamed GOP sources told Politico that former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was indeed considering running to regain the Alabama Senate seat he held for 20 years until he left to become Donald Trump’s favorite administration chew toy. Sessions hasn’t publicly said he’s considering running (perhaps he’s lost in the woods), though he didn’t rule out a comeback bid in May. The candidate filing deadline is Nov. 8, so Sessions will need to make up his mind fast.
While Sessions hasn’t said anything publicly, the anti-tax Club for Growth said that they hoped he’d run against Democratic incumbent Doug Jones. The Club may not have much company on the Sessions bandwagon, though. A GOP source tells CNN that Sessions hasn’t discussed this race with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but that McConnell thinks “Republicans are very well positioned to retake the seat” with their current field.
More importantly, Trump himself still seems furious with Sessions. Back in July, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said that, while he wanted his old colleague to run, he’d “talked to the president about it to … about if Sessions ran," but "he was not encouraging." Shelby continued, "How do I say it? He was not on board, OK?”
We’re not sure what Donald Trump said behind closed doors to Shelby, but it probably wasn’t much worse than what he’s been saying in public for years. In June, for instance, Trump declared that the "biggest mistake" of his tenure was making Sessions his attorney general.
Several of Sessions’ would-be primary opponents also don’t seem inclined to get out of his way. Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville put out a statement on Tuesday saying, “Jeff Sessions had a chance to stand and defend the President and he failed,” while Rep. Bradley Byrne said he’d stay in no matter who runs. Roy Moore, who lost this seat to Jones in the 2017 special election, also said that a Sessions bid “wouldn’t affect one way or another what I do.”
However, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill did leave open the possibility that he’d defer to Sessions. Merrill refused to say what he’d do if the former senator ran, but added, “I can tell you I have always been a fan of Sen. Sessions and always been a strong supporter.” However, Merrill also said that, while Sessions would immediately be the frontrunner, “If the president were to come out publicly against Sen. Sessions … I think it would be very difficult for Sen. Sessions to overcome that.”
For now, at least, we still have a Sessions-free March GOP primary. The GOP firm Cygnal is out with a mid-October survey, and they give Tuberville the lead with 32% of the vote. Candidates need to win a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff, though, and Byrne leads Moore 18-11 for the other spot in a second round. Merrill is close behind with 9% while state Rep. Arnold Mooney, who began advertising on TV after this poll was finished, and former televangelist Stanley Adair take 2% and 1%, respectively.