By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
The Alabama political world is roiling with rumors about who Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) will appoint to fill the US Senate seat currently held by Senator Jeff Sessions (R). Sessions is leaving the Senate to accept President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s (R) offer to be US Attorney General. Gov. Bentley gets to appoint someone to replace Sessions; but the Governor has to call a special election for the people to vote. Bentley has up to two years to call the special session so it will likely be the 2018 election before the people vote.
According to original reporting by the ‘Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) will seek the office of Senator in the special election, whether Gov. Bentley appoints him or not.
Gov. Bentley is term limited from running for Governor again, so even if he is not impeached or removed Alabama will be electing a new Governor in 2018.
Early polling had shown that suspended Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) has the early lead for the Republican nomination for the office of Governor. AG Strange however was polling in a strong second. Most political observers had thought that AG Strange and Chief Justice Moore were likely to meet in that 2018 primary. The Chief Justice ran for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2010 and 2006; but lost both times in the Primary. Strange ran for Lieutenant Governor against former Governor Jim Folsom (D) in 2006 and lost; before running for Attorney General in 2010. Strange was reelected in 2014.
Ron Crumpton (D) who ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in November against GOP incumbent Richard Shelby has already announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for US Senate in the special election. No Democratic Party candidate has won a statewide race in Alabama since 2008 and no Democrat has won a race for US Senate in Alabama since 1992 when Sen. Shelby was reelected. Shelby would later switch to the Republican Party. Sessions replaced the retiring Sen. Howell Heflin (D) in 1996.
Now that it appears that Strange will pursue the Senate seat a number of possible candidates will be jockeying to pick up Strange’s supporters. Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan (R) is seriously considering running for Governor. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), and State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) all have expressed interest in the job. Other possible candidates include: Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R), Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose), Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery), State Treasurer Young Boozer (R), and former gubernatorial candidate Tim James (R) are all also possibilities.
State Representative Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) has announced that he is looking at running statewide in 2018.
The Alabama GOP has won seven of the last eight Governor’s races in the State.
Luther Strange is a veteran lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, DC.