- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions is expected to step down at some point from his Senate seat after President-elect Donald Trump tapped him to serve as attorney general.

Gov. Robert Bentley will name an interim senator to fill the seat until an election van be held to fill the position for the remainder of Sessions’ term. However, there are some unknowns about the appointment, including when that election will be held. Here’s a look at the filling of the coveted Senate appointment:

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When will the position come open?

It is up to Sessions when to step down from his U.S. Senate seat. President-elect Donald Trump takes office January. However, Sessions might wait until he is confirmed as attorney general by the U.S. Senate. Those hearings could stretch out for some time. Gov. Robert Bentley said this week that he does not anticipate Sessions will resign before he is confirmed as U.S. attorney general.

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How long will the appointed person serve before election?

That is unclear. In Alabama, the governor makes a temporary appointment until an election can be held to fill the position for the remainder of the unexpired term. A 1915 state law says if the vacancy occurs more than four months before a general election, the governor of Alabama shall “forthwith order an election” but does not specify a time frame. Some argue that indicates a special election must be held sometime in 2017, while others suggest it could wait until the 2018 general election. A spokeswoman for the governor said his legal office is researching when the election would need to be held. Sessions was up for re-election in 2020, so whoever gets the post would have to run again in 2020.

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When was the last Senate vacancy?

The last time Alabama had a Senate vacancy was in 1978 when Sen. James B. Allen died. His widow was appointed to the seat and held it for five months. Donald Stewart, a Democrat, then won a November election, to fulfill the remainder of Allen’s term. Stewart lost in 1981 to Republican Jeremiah Denton.

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Who are the front runners for the appointment?

A number of well-known Republicans are reported to be interested in the appointment, including Attorney General Luther Strange, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, and U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt. Bentley has not tipped his hand about what direction he is leaning, although the governor has joked about his sudden influx of “friends.” The Republican governor is expected to appoint a Republican to the position. One option before the governor is to appoint someone as a placeholder, and let the contenders fight it out in a special election without giving one of them the power of incumbency.

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What is Bentley looking for?

Bentley has said he is looking for someone who “will work to further the agenda of President-Elect Trump” and is a conservative like Sessions. The governor has suggested a few litmus tests for the appointment, including someone who is anti-abortion. “This person must uphold the Constitution, value the rights of the Second Amendment, the rights of the states, support pro-life issues, implement a strong national security policy and support domestic job creation,” Bentley said.

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