The runoff for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate is about to get nasty, I am afraid.

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville surprisingly led the crowded ticket with about 33 percent of the vote, edging out former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who polled close to 32 percent and who held the Senate seat for 20 years before stepping down to take the AG job in the Trump administration.

Sessions was considered a heavy favorite to win his old seat back. And he still may, if he can get by Tuberville in the March 31 GOP runoff and then beat the Democratic incumbent in November. But I imagine some sparks will fly before the runoff is decided.

Look for Tuberville to run ads quoting President Trump as saying his decision to name Sessions AG was his biggest mistake as president. It’s not out of the question that Trump would endorse Tuberville — or even campaign for him.

Trump has not forgiven Sessions for refusing to recuse himself in the Russia meddling investigation, even though most considered it the right thing to do and despite the fact that Sessions was the first U.S. Senator to endorse Trump. 

Look for Sessions to label Tuberville a “carpetbagger” who really lives in Florida, but claims his Lake Martin address simply to run in Alabama. Sessions promises that Tuberville will be thoroughly “vetted” during the campaign, so things could really get dirty. As a football coach, Tuberville’s nature is to fight, so do not expect him to just deflect accusations without responding in kind.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) finished third in the race and his future in state politics is unclear.

The future for former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is even bleaker after he took less than 7 percent in the race. Only two years ago, Moore had won a hard-fought primary, before losing the general election to U.S. Sen. Doug Jones after decades old accusations of misconduct by Moore with underage girls.

Regardless of who wins the primary, the eyes of the nation will be on Alabama in November, since Jones is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election this year.

Democrats need only a net gain of three seats if they were to capture the White House or four if Trump wins re-election, since the vice president can cast the tie-breaking vote. But if Democrats lose dark red Alabama, they would have net four seats to capture control of the upper chamber. 

While the GOP runoff is shaping up as a nasty affair, the November general election campaign will probably be even more spirited.

 

Retired Auburn Attorney Don Eddins is publisher of The Auburn Villager newspaper and the online publication, auburnvillager.com. Before going into law, he was state Capitol reporter for The Huntsville Times and state editor for The Columbus Ledger. In college, he was sports editor of The Auburn Plainsman. Email him your comments about the newspaper to doneddins@auburnlaw.us. 

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