July 14, 2017 — Now, just about a month away from the Alabama US Senate special primary election, we are seeing the first political patterns that begin to define the Republican primary race.
To review, the seat became vacant when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) was appointed US attorney general. In a controversial move, embattled Gov. Robert Bentley (R) tabbed state Attorney General Luther Strange (R) to replace Sessions. The appointment was controversial from the start because Bentley was reportedly under investigation by Strange’s office.
Gov. Bentley, who was facing impeachment from his own Republican base in the state legislature, saw the process grind to a halt when Strange asked the legislative leadership to allow him to complete his investigation to determine if the governor actually misused state funds when engaged in an extra-marital affair. Strange later said that he never confirmed such an investigation was actually underway, but he publicly asked the legislative leaders to halt, and that helped him earn him the appointment. Bentley was then in position to appoint the new attorney general who would decide whether to continue the stealth investigation into his own potential wrongdoing.
Dec. 2, 2016 — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is the US Attorney General-Designate as is common knowledge, and upon his confirmation to the position a situation filled with rather unique political intrigue will take center stage in Alabama’s capital city.
Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has the responsibility of filling any US Senate vacancy with at least an interim appointment, and then calling a special election to fill the remaining balance of the term. In this case, the special election for Sessions seat will likely be scheduled concurrently with the 2018 regular primary and general voting cycle. The winner then serves until the next in-cycle election, which will be 2020 for this particular Senate position.
Most of the time, the special election is run concurrently with the regular election cycle, but it doesn’t have to be scheduled in such a manner according to Alabama election law. Since the state is solidly Republican, the individual who Bentley appoints will have a major advantage in capturing the party nomination, and then the seat whenever the special is called.