Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was running for his old Alabama’s Senate seat in 2020, gushing about President Trump’s agenda and hoping he will earn the White House’s support despite his sour relationship with the president.
“No senator will be more effective in advancing President Trump’s agenda,” Mr. Sessions declared Thursday evening on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Mr. Sessions ripped the House Democrats ongoing impeachment effort a farce and predicted they would eventually “slink away,” and said he had no regrets about his time running the Justice Department.
However, that tenure did not meet with Mr. Trump’s approval, who calls picking Mr. Sessions his “biggest mistake,” because Mr. Sessions quickly recused himself from the Russia collusion probe. The Mueller report found no evidence of collusion, as Mr. Trump insisted from the beginning, and he felt Mr. Sessions, despite being the first senator to endorse his presidential run, had betrayed him.
“I did the thing I had to do,” Mr. Sessions said Thursday night.
A top White House official suggested earlier Thursday that Mr. Trump might support Mr. Sessions’ effort to regain the seat he had resigned to become attorney general if the choice comes down to Mr. Sessions or incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.
White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president doesn’t want to deny or deprive Alabama of their right to choose, despite a report that Mr. Trump has discouraged Mr. Sessions from running.
Asked whether Mr. Trump would support Mr. Sessions, Mrs. Conway replied, “we’d love to have a Republican senator there. We think that Jones has been a reliable liberal vote on way too many things, really disappointing — obviously not representing the interests of the people of Alabama as well as he could be.”
Mr. Sessions announcement was not unexpected and the political rumor mill had trended toward that decision for weeks. Before his appearance on Mr. Carlson’s show, his opponents in the 2020 GOP primary already were criticizing the man who had held the seat for decades before becoming attorney general.
“Jeff Sessions is one of the reasons I decided to get off the sidelines and into the race for Senate,” said Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville. “He’s been out of ‘The Swamp’ for less than two years and now he’s itching to go back.”
Mr. Sessions, who would be 73 when he returned to the Senate, said he will file the papers Friday.
“It’s not my seat, but I believe I have something to offer,” he said Thursday evening.
Long considered a stalwart conservative, Trump loyalists came to regard Mr. Sessions as a craven Washington figure for failing to defend the president.
“As attorney general, Jeff Sessions had his chance to have President Trump’s back and take on the establishment politicians and he failed,” Mr. Tuberville said. “If we’re going to help President Trump change this country, then we have to stop recycling the same old politicians.”
Rep. Bradley Byrne, who also is running for the seat and recently led GOP fundraising with $2.5 million cash on hand, issued a similar statement, although he did not name Mr. Sessions.
“From the Mueller investigation to this impeachment, President Trump has been under constant attack,” Mr. Byrne said. “I won’t sit back and watch them destroy our country. Alabama deserves a senator who will stand with the president and won’t run away and hide from the fight.”
Mr. Sessions pushed back against that narrative Thursday, saying he has never wavered in his support of the Trump administration’s agenda, and saying Mr. Trump had done an exemplary job thus far on the foreign and domestic fronts.
Mr. Jones, who won the 2017 special election to replace Mr. Sessions, is rated the most vulnerable senator seeking reelection next year. Alabama is a Republican-leaning state, and GOP candidates have won the governorship and other statewide races by commanding margins.
Mr. Jones was aided immeasurably in his bid by accusations that Roy Moore, a former state supreme court justice who won the 2017 Republican primary, had behaved inappropriately with teenage girls as a young lawyer and sexually assaulted one. Mr. Moore denied the charges, but they buried his campaign.
While Mr. Jones has positioned himself much closer to the center than congressional Democrats’ left-wing coastal leadership, he has been attacked by Alabama conservatives as too liberal. In particular, they point to Mr. Jones’ opposition to the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh as a prime example.
Mr. Moore declared his 2020 candidacy in June, a move the party has desperately tried to derail, although few people consider Mr. Moore to have any realistic shot at winning.
Mr. Byrne enjoys considerable establishment support, whereas Mr. Tuberville is famous for being the former head football coach at Auburn University and is making his first run at public office.
Each campaign has touted polls claiming their man is a front-runner, although a recent tally showed Mr. Tuberville in the lead and Mr. Byrne dominating only in the area around Mobile, which is his district.
Other GOP candidates in the race include Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and state Rep. Arnold Mooney.