Tommy Tuberville defeats Jeff Sessions in Republican runoff for US Senate in Alabama

Vasha Hunt/AP, John Minchillo/APThe former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, right, beat out former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday for the Republican nomination for Sessions’ old US Senate seat in Alabama.
  • The former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated former Attorney General Jeff Sessionsin the Republican primary runoff for Sessions’ old US Senate seat in Alabama.
  • The race largely played as a fight over which candidate was more loyal and would best serve President Donald Trump,who won the state by a margin of 27 percentage points in 2016.
  • Tuberville will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, the most vulnerable Democratic US senator in 2020, this fall.
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The former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Republican primary to face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones for Sessions’ old US Senate seat.

Jones was elected in a December 2017 special election to replace Sessions, who vacated the seat he represented for over 20 years to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general.

Sessions and Tuberville advanced to a runoff, which was delayed to Tuesday because of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the March 3 primary.

The race largely played out as a fight over which candidate was more loyal to Trump, who won the state by a margin of 27 percentage points in 2016 and remains highly popular in the state.

While Sessions had tried to tie himself to Trump, both Trump and his campaign actively repudiated Sessions ahead of the runoff, while Trump endorsed Tuberville.^tfw

Sessions’ tenure as attorney general was marked by both public and private conflicts with Trump. In the months before Sessions’ November 2018 departure, Trump publicly lambasted Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Department of Justice’s investigations of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, saying Sessions “never took control” of the department and only got the job in the first place because of his “loyalty” to Trump.

Since then, Sessions and Trump sparred on Twitter over the election.

But while Tuberville – who has never held elected office before – doesn’t have the same political baggage or complicated history with Trump, his career in the private sector has generated its own controversies.

The New York Times reported that Tuberville’s post-Auburn business venture of cofounding a hedge fund went up in flames and ended up with his cofounder John David Stroud being sentenced to 10 years in prison for fraud and Tuberville losing all the money he put into the fund and being sued by investors, with whom he settled in 2013.

A spokesman for Tuberville told The Times that the coach “was as surprised as anyone to learn Stroud had lost all the money, including Coach’s,” and that Tuberville “never received a dime – it was a dead loss for him and his family.” He added: “The Lord humbles us on many occasions, and this was such a moment for Coach.”

Despite some negative headlines late in his campaign, an independent poll of the race conducted by Auburn University at Montgomery showed Tuberville leading Sessions by a comfortable margin with 47% of likely Republican runoff voters indicating they would vote for Tuberville, 31% supporting Sessions, and 22% undecided.

The poll also showed Sessions leading Jones by 6 percentage points and Tuberville leading Jones by 8 points in a hypothetical general-election matchup. Jones is considered the most vulnerable Senate Democrat up for reelection this year; his seat is rated lean Republican by election handicappers at the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections and rated likely Republican by Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Centre for Politics.

Alabama held Tuesday’s runoffs with reported cases of COVID-19 in the state rising. Alabama does not allow early-in person voting and imposes stricter requirements on absentee voting than any other US state.

While Alabama allowed voters to cast absentee ballots without an excuse for Tuesday’s runoffs, the state successfully fought in court to uphold rules requiring voters to both submit a photocopy of an approved photo ID and either obtain two witness signatures or get their ballot notarized for their absentee ballot to be counted.

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