Ses­sions vies for Sen­ate come­back in campaign shad­owed by Trump

Enterprise-Record (Chico) - - OBITUARIES - By Kim Chan­dler

MONT­GOMERY, ALA. » Seek­ing a political come­back, for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions is try­ing to beat out ex-col­lege foot­ball coach Tommy Tu­berville in Tues­day’s Repub­li­can pri­mary runoff and re­claim the Alabama Sen­ate seat he held for decades. To do that, Ses­sions also has to go through Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Trump has en­dorsed Tu­berville, whose name recog­ni­tion comes from his time on the side­lines at Auburn Univer­sity, and turned de­ci­sively against his for­mer Cab­i­net mem­ber, mak­ing di­rect ap­peals for Alabama vot­ers to re­ject Ses­sions’s can­di­dacy. “Do not trust Jeff Ses­sions,” Trump tweeted this spring. “He let our Coun­try down.”

The pres­i­dent weighed in again Satur­day on Twitter, call­ing Tu­berville “a win­ner who will never let you down” and cas­ti­gat­ing Ses­sions as “a disas­ter who has let us all down. We don’t want him back in Wash­ing­ton.” Ses­sions re­sponded quickly: “My honor and in­tegrity are far more im­por­tant than these ju­ve­nile in­sults . ... As you know, Alabama does not take orders from Wash­ing­ton.”

Ses­sions safely held the Sen­ate seat for 20 years be­fore re­sign­ing to lead Trump’s Jus­tice Depart­ment. Their re­la­tion­ship soured af­ter Ses­sions with­drew from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sia in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, a move that in­fu­ri­ates Trump to this day. Ses­sions said he had no choice be­cause he par­tic­i­pated in Trump’s 2016 campaign and could have been a po­ten­tial sub­ject or wit­ness.

He has asked vot­ers to look past the feud. “I’m call­ing on the peo­ple of Alabama and I’m say­ing this. You know me. You know I can be trusted,” Ses­sions said dur­ing a campaign stop this past week.

“I have stood with you. I have ad­vanced our val­ues and I’m ask­ing you now to stand with me and make sure that the seat from Alabama in the United States Sen­ate is not a pot­ted plant, not an empty suit and is some­body who knows the is­sues and will fight for them.”

The win­ner of the runoff will take on the in­cum­bent, Demo­crat Doug Jones, in a race with ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for Sen­ate con­trol.

Repub­li­cans are de­fend­ing 25 of the 38 Sen­ate seats in play this year. Democrats must gain at least three to cap­ture the ma­jor­ity. It’s a dif­fi­cult but achiev­able task as they also try to win back the White House. But their path be­comes sig­nif­i­cantly steeper if Repub­li­cans are able to take the Alabama seat, which Jones cap­tured in a 2017 spe­cial elec­tion con­test that was up­ended by sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions against the GOP nom­i­nee, Roy Moore.

In the weeks lead­ing up to the runoff, Ses­sions has es­ca­lated his at­tacks on Tu­berville, ques­tion­ing both his in­volve­ment in a hedge fund in which Tu­berville’s part­ner pleaded guilty to fraud and Tu­berville’s han­dling of a case where a foot­ball player was ac­cused of statu­tory rape. Tu­berville’s campaign told The New York Times that his in­volve­ment in the hedge fund was a mis­take that he has paid for, and has de­fended Tu­berville’s han­dling of the player’s case.

Ses­sions has also de­rided Tu­berville as a “tourist,” be­cause he was un­til re­cently reg­is­tered to vote in Florida.

A political new­comer, Tu­berville is armed both with Trump’s en­dorse­ment and the state-wide name recog­ni­tion that comes from the Auburn job. Be­liev­ing he has a com­fort­able lead, Tu­berville has turned to a fa­mil­iar page in the foot­ball play­book, look­ing to run out the clock in the fi­nal days.

His campaign de­clined to make Tu­berville avail­able for an in­ter­view or dis­close any of his ap­pear­ances in the week lead­ing up to the pri­mary. He has de­clined Ses­sions’ mul­ti­ple chal­lenges to a de­bate, de­spite ini­tially say­ing that he would par­tic­i­pate.

“Jeff Ses­sions was a disas­ter. It’s time to send a mes­sage to Jeff Ses­sions that Pres­i­dent Trump does not want him or his cronies in the swamp,” Tu­berville wrote on Twitter last month.

Jack Camp­bell, a political con­sul­tant and talk ra­dio host who sup­ports Tu­berville, said Trump’s dis­avowal of Ses­sions has be­come the chief is­sue of the campaign.

“It’s to­tally the Trump re­cusal is­sue,” Camp­bell said. “I think that’s it in a nut­shell.”

Ses­sions had been the first se­na­tor to en­dorse Trump, don­ning a red “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hat and in­fus­ing the 2016 campaign with a dose of Wash­ing­ton cred­i­bil­ity. Their al­liance so­lid­i­fied as Trump adopted the hard-line im­mi­gra­tion pro­pos­als that Ses­sions had cham­pi­oned for years in the Sen­ate.

JAKE CRANDALL — THE MONT­GOMERY AD­VER­TISER

U.S. Sen­ate can­di­date Jeff Ses­sions walks to a car af­ter a press con­fer­ence at Gail’s Down the Street Cafe in Mont­gomery, Ala., on Fri­day.

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