Nov 8, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Jeff Sessions' Alabama Senate run triggers GOP schism

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that he attempt to reclaim his Alabama Senate seat in 2020 is driving a wedge among Republicans.

The big picture: The congressional GOP's unity has been continually tested during the Trump administration, but maintaining a united front has become more important than ever for the party as it angles to flip the House and hang onto the Senate in 2020.

  • Alabama's Senate seat is seen as an obvious target given Democratic Sen. Doug Jones' tenuous status in the deeply red state.
  • Sessions has been warned that Trump, who soured on the attorney general for recusing himself during the Mueller probe, is likely to attack him.

What they're saying, via the AP, ranging from supportive to dismissive of Sessions' run:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.): "The people in Alabama will figure this out. ... We do want to get that seat back, and I’m hopeful we will."
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said that he wishes Sessions would stay out of the race despite the fact that he was a "great senator"
  • Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.): "He’s a man of integrity and, of course, he’ll have to run his own race and, you know, that’s up to the people of Alabama, but I believe he’ll be a formidable candidate."
  • Marty Connors, a former chair of the Alabama Republican Party: "If Trump takes on Sessions, I don’t know what happens."

The state of play: Sessions also faces a crowded field of challengers in the Republican primary. They include:

  • Businessman Stanley Adair
  • Rep. Bradley Byrne, who said that "Alabama deserves a senator who will stand with the president and won’t run away and hide from the fight."
  • Alabama Secretary of State John Merill
  • Rep. Arnold Mooney
  • Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost the race for the Senate seat in 2016 to Jones after sexual misconduct allegations.
  • Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville

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