Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to win enough votes in Alabama Tuesday night to advance to November’s election against incumbent Democrat Doug Jones, but he’s still in the race.
With about 97 percent of the vote counted, Sessions has won 31 percent of ballots in the state’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Former college football coach Tommy Tuberville has won 32 percent. The two are separated by about 8,000 votes.
The split means the two advance to a runoff on March 31, which will send the winner to face Jones in the general election. To avoid a runoff, one of the candidates needed to earn at least 50 percent of the vote.
Rep. Bradley Byrne, who declined to run for re-election in the House to vie for the Senate seat, finished third with 27 percent of the vote. Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who lost the special election to Jones in 2017, was a distant fourth with 7 percent.
Sessions held his Senate seat for 20 years before resigning to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general. He ultimately had a falling out with Trump for removing himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.
“This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed attorney general of the United States and then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down and end the phony Russia Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
Sessions, however, touted his relationship with the president on Tuesday as one reason why he should regain a seat in the U.S. Senate.
“No one will prevail in this Senate race without being vetted,” he said. “[Tuberville] never gave a single penny of his millions to the Trump campaign. There is no doubt of my support for Donald Trump and his agenda.”
Tuberville, who coached at Auburn University from 1999 to 2008, echoed Trump in his criticism of the former attorney general.
“We’re going to finish what President Trump started when he looked at Jeff Sessions from across the table and said, ‘You’re fired,'” he said.
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