By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
While Washington D.C. politicians and many here in Alabama publicly congratulated Attorney General Luther Strange on his appointment to the US Senate, the overwhelming reaction among reporters and politicos ranges from negative to outrage.
Among the chattering classes and in legal circles, Strange’s appointment to fill the vacancy left by Sen. Jeff Sessions resignation to become the nation’s Attorney General is seen as little more than a quid pro quo among political rivals.
A Bentley confidant speaking on condition of anonymity said, “Bentley hates Big Luther, but he held his nose and gave him the nod.” The reason, according to this Bentley ally, was “To get his butt out of a sling…but he’s walking a very fine line on this one.” True or not, many believe Bentley appointed Strange to quash an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Special Prosecutions Unit headed by Matt Hart. A source close to the inquiry said, “If Bentley thinks for one minute he can stop Hart by giving Luther his dream job, he’s a bigger fool than I thought.”
Bentley began interviewing potential candidates to replace Strange last week, including State Senator Cam Ward, Pickens County District Attorney Chris McCool and Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall.
In our original reporting, we quoted sources who said Marshall has met with casino owners, however an attorney for VictoryLand and Greenetrack said that he has never met with Milton McGregor or Luther “Nat” Winn. Representatives for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) said that the tribe is not planning to participate financially in the 2018 Attorney General’s race at this time. However our well-placed sources were confident that Marshall had met with representatives from the gaming industry an aversion Marshall has denied. Over the weekend APR spoke with General Marshall who said he hasn’t met with any casino owners.
The report also quoted what were believed to be credible sources who claimed Marshall had never tried a public corruption case. However, he gave APR an example of his prosecution of law enforcement officer. The chattering class has erroneously tried to identify Deputy Chief Attorney General Alice Martin as a source in this report, she was not.
Bentley, in recent days, has opened up his search for Strange’s replacement to also include Chief Deputy Attorney General Alice Martin. Rumors of Bentley appointing former Attorney General Troy King are being floated by King’s allies, but Bentley administration officials have confirmed off the record that King is not in the running at this time.
But the trouble, as some see it, doesn’t stop with the perceived deal between Bentley and Strange. State Rep. Christopher England took to social media to denounce Bentley’s plan to hold a special election in 2018 to select a permanent office holder for Sessions’ Senate seat. “According to the Governor’s press release, the Special election for Sessions’ US Senate seat will take place in 2018. For anyone that has read the law, this is ILLEGAL,” said England. “Again, read it for yourself. If the vacancy occurs more than four months prior to the next upcoming General Election, which it CLEARLY does, State law demands that the Governor call a special election ‘forthwith.’” England, an attorney, says, “Forthwith means without delay or hesitation; with no time intervening.”
More controversy seems to be in the making as Bentley and his team struggle to maintain a grip on the current Legislative Session.