Jeff Sessions’s Senate Replacement Will Be Deplorable

It has been a while since I wrote about Alabama politics, but the primaries for the special election to replace Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III in the Senate are scheduled for August 15th, and the candidates are out on the trail. From what I’m reading, Roy Moore is the current frontrunner, which is more than mildly terrifying:

As former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore runs for U.S. Senate, he doesn’t shrink from telling voters he has twice been ousted from the bench for defying federal courts over the Ten Commandments and same-sex marriage.

Instead, he wears those rejections as a badge of honor.

Moore tells Republican voters in the blood-red state that they are akin to battle scars for standing up for what he believes.

“I will not only say what is right, I will do what is right,” Moore said during a June forum in the east Alabama city of Oxford.

Now, Alabama’s Republican Party is currently in some disrepute. This is from April.

The strange, sad saga of Robert Bentley’s governorship of Alabama is over.

The Republican was booked in the Montgomery County jail Monday afternoon on a pair of misdemeanor campaign-finance charges. He pled guilty to both as part of a deal that sidesteps the four felony charges he might have faced. He later resigned, bringing to a close one of the odder sex scandals in recent memory, something like a soft-core porno by Robert Penn Warren.

I won’t revisit the sex scandal, but I will note that Bentley presented himself as a morally pure Christian right up until the point that he started plea negotiations. Before he lost his job, he had the privilege of appointing Luther Strange as the interim replacement for Jeff Sessions, but that was a barely disguised effort at obstructing justice.

The Alabama House Judiciary Committee began an impeachment inquiry, but the investigation was put on hold in November when Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange requested that they halt it while he looked into the matter, but he never confirmed he was investigating Bentley.

The delicate equilibrium fell apart in February, when U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed as President Trump’s attorney general, creating a vacancy for one of the state’s two Senate seats. Bentley appointed Strange to fill the job. Some critics saw this as political manipulation on the governor’s part: He could deftly remove the man with possible control over his fate by giving him an exalted office.

If that was the goal, it didn’t work. Steven Marshall, whom Bentley appointed as the new attorney general, promptly confirmed the investigation that Strange had refused to confirm, with an announcement that Marshall would recuse himself.

Sen. Strange is running in the special election but he’s severely tarnished by the circumstances of his appointment. He can see that Roy Moore has some juice despite his nationally famous disregard for the law. So, when the Montgomery County Republican Executive Committee held a candidate forum last week, Strange knew he had to say something bold.

He delivered:

Strange, appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley to fill the seat until the special election, said Alabama needs a strong supporter of the Trump administration in Washington.

“President Trump is the greatest thing that’s happened to this country,” Strange said. “I consider it a Biblical miracle that he’s there.”

Roy Moore skipped that forum, but in addition to Strange, the other Republican candidates were in attendance: “U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville, state Sen. Trip Pittman of Baldwin County, physician Randy Brinson of Montgomery, physician James Beretta of Pelham, businessman Dom Gentile of Hoover, and business consultant Bryan Peeples of Birmingham.”

Apparently, Mr. Brinson took a leave as president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama in order to make this run for office. Predictably, he blames the corruption in Alabama politics on liberals and he demonstrates his Christian credentials by advocating a wall to keep out the brown-hued Catholics from below our Southern border.

“I’m running because I’m tired of the corruption in Alabama and Washington,” said Brinson, who took leave from his position as president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama to run for the Senate. “All our biblical values and convictions compel us to speak out against corruption, which I’ve done. I’m tired of our values and our faith being mocked by liberal elites. I’m tired of career politicians who say they’re conservative, and then vote like liberals.

“President Trump wasn’t supposed to win this election. He was an outsider, not a career politician. Well, neither am I. This is my first run for office and I’m proud to say I fully support President Trump’s agenda. I’m ready to go to Washington to fight for the president’s agenda. We need to build a wall, we need to fix our immigration process, we need to repeal and replace Obamacare before it totally collapses.”

At the forum, it appears that Rep. Mo Brooks mostly focused on his long record of public service in which he has never had to endure an ethics investigation. In other words, you can trust him not to be a hypocritical disappointment like Gov. Bentley or former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Brooks saved his pyrotechnics for the airwaves.

In a new Senate campaign ad, Brooks, a Congressman from Huntsville, said he would filibuster any spending bills if the Senate doesn’t fund Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“If I have to filibuster on the Senate floor, I’ll even read the King James Bible until the wall is funded,” Brooks said in the ad. “We’re going to build that wall, or you’ll know the name of every Republican who surrenders to the Democrats to break my filibuster. I give you my word, and I don’t give my word lightly.”

It has to be the King James version because everyone knows that Jesus sounded just like William Shakespeare.

In Washington, Trump’s border wall is already forgotten. But down in Alabama it’s all part of some biblical miracle. We need these men in the Senate like we need a drill applied to our skulls. But, despite the Alabama GOP’s recent record of egregious face-planting, one of these men will almost assuredly be a U.S. Senator before the year is out.

Alabama doesn’t have jungle primaries like some other southern states, but it does have runoff elections if no candidate reaches fifty percent of the vote. The primaries are scheduled for August 15th and runoff elections, if needed, are scheduled for September 26th. The general election will take place on December 12th.

The Democrats have eight candidates running but it doesn’t appear right now like any of them are being taken seriously. I thought that Jeff Sessions was the most obnoxious member of the Senate, but he’ll probably look tame in retrospect after we get used to his successor.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.