Jul 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Jeff Sessions' Senate bid headlines primaries in Texas, Alabama and Maine

Jeff Sessions addresses the media after voting in the Alabama Republican primary runoff

Jeff Sessions addresses the media after voting in the Alabama Republican primary runoff on July 14, 2020. Photo: Michael DeMocker/Getty Images

Primary election runoffs in races that failed to produce a winner in March are under way in Alabama and Texas on Tuesday, while Maine voters are finally heading to the polls after coronavirus forced the state to delay its primary.

The big picture: Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is fighting to return to the Senate in a GOP primary runoff against former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) will find out who will be their Democratic challengers in November.

Races to watch

In Alabama, Sessions is fighting for his political life as President Trump has lobbied intensely for his former attorney general's opponent. Both candidates have expressed their loyal support for Trump and his agenda, despite the president's disdain for Sessions.

  • Sessions was the first senator to endorse President Trump in 2016, but Trump has never forgiven him for his recusal from the Russia investigation.
  • The winner of Tuesday's run-off will face Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in 2020.
  • Sessions finished just points behind Tuberville during the March primaries, and a recent poll from Auburn University at Montgomery showed Tuberville still maintains a healthy lead.

In Maine, Democratic establishment favorite Sara Gideon is up against progressive lobbyist Betsy Sweet and lawyer Bre Kidman for the right to take on Collins — a moderate whose votes for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and against Trump's impeachment conviction have made her one of the most heavily targeted incumbents.

  • Gideon, the speaker of the State House of Representatives, has already raised $23 million, much of it from outside Maine, as donors view her as the most capable candidate of unseating Collins, The New York Times reports.
  • Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will automatically secure more than $4 million to fund their campaign as they challenge Collins, according to RollCall.

In Texas, former Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar and state Sen. Royce West are competing in a runoff for the Democratic nomination. The winner will face off against Cornyn, a three-term senator, in November.

  • Cornyn already has $14.5 million in his war chest that will make him a formidable opponent, regardless of who secures the nomination, The Texas Tribune reports.
  • If West wins the nomination and the Senate seat, he would be the first Black Senator from Texas.

Zoom out: Coronavirus cases have been surging in Texas, which reported nearly 10,000 new infections and 123 deaths on Tuesday.

  • The situation is getting worse in Alabama as well, with the state reporting about 1,700 new cases and 40 deaths on Tuesday.
  • Maine, meanwhile, is one of the best-performing states in the country as it relates to flattening its coronavirus curve, reporting just eight new cases and no deaths on Tuesday.
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