WASHINGTON – On a night of elections across several states, it was a runoff election that took center stage.
Political newcomer and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville beat out Jeff Sessions in the Alabama Senate Republican primary runoff Tuesday for Sessions old Senate seat. Tuberville’s win showcases President Donald Trump’s influence on down ballot races for Republicans.
Ahead of the primary, Trump endorsed Tuberville and repeatedly bashed Sessions, calling him a “disaster” and saying he “made a mistake” by appointing Sessions as attorney general.
The feud between Sessions and Trump began in spring 2017 after Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. His recusal led to Robert Mueller being appointed special counsel and a nearly two-year probe that clouded Trump’s first years in office.
Tuberville barely topped Sessions in the primary in March, 33.4% to 31.6%. A candidate would have needed 50% of the primary vote to avoid a runoff.
Shortly after Tuberville was named the projected winner Tuesday night, Trump tweeted his praise.
“Tommy Tuberville WON big against Jeff Sessions,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Will be a GREAT Senator for the incredible people of Alabama.”
Tuberville will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November.
Here are other takeaways from Tuesday’s primary:
M.J. Hegar, an Air Force veteran who earned a Purple Heart, is leading state lawmaker Royce West in the Texas Democratic Senate runoff. The winner will go on to face Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
Hegar was the favorite for Tuesday’s runoff after she led the primary in March with 22% of the vote while West earned about 15% of the vote. Partial early voting and mail ballot results showed Hegar with a slight lead over West before in-person results began coming in Tuesday evening.
In the weeks leading up to the runoff, the campaign got contentious between the two Democratic candidates. Hegar argued some of West’s attacks were linked to sexism while West accused Washington insiders of pouring money into Hegar’s campaign to oppose what could be the first African American to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate.
During the 2018 midterms, Hegar drew national attention after releasing a buzzy ad during her unsuccessful bid to challenge Republican Rep. John Carter in Texas’ 31st Congressional District. The ad, titled “Doors,” traced the Air Force veteran’s path from a little girl at her mother’s side fleeing domestic abuse to helping save her team from Taliban capture after their medevac helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.
Democrats are fighting hard to win a Senate seat in Texas, where both senators are Republican, during this presidential year. However, Cornyn’s seat is still listed as by the Cook Political Report as “likely Republican.”
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Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon will face off against Republican Sen. Susan Collins, considered by many to be one of the most endangered senators, in November.
Gideon was seen as the front-runner headed into Tuesday’s primary, as she outraised other challengers and has led in polling against Collins in a head-to-head matchup. Gideon defeated two more liberal candidates, lawyer Bre Kidman and activist Betsy Sweet. Collins’ seat is considered a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report.
Ronny Jackson, a former Navy admiral and Trump’s onetime nominee to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, won the Republican primary runoff against lobbyist Josh Winegarner for the seat belonging to Rep. Mac Thornberry, who is retiring.
Jackson was endorsed by Trump and led in fundraising over Winegarner, who was Thornberry’s hand-picked candidate to succeed him.
Jackson will go up against Democrat Gus Trujillo in the traditionally Republican 13th Congressional District race in November.
Former Rep. Pete Sessions will likely get another chance to return to Congress after he won the Republican primary runoff for the 17th Congressional District against Republican businesswoman Renee Swann.
Sessions is seeking to replace Republican Rep. Bill Flores, who is retiring from Congress. Flores endorsed Swann for the election. Sessions lost his seat during the 2018 midterms against Democrat Colin Allred, and moved to the 17th Congressional District to run there.
Sessions became a fixture in Trump’s impeachment probe for his relationship with two associates of the president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and his role in the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Sessions will face Democrat Rick Kennedy in November.
In Maine, Dale Crafts, a former state representative, is leading the race to face off against Democratic freshmen Rep. Jared Golden, who flipped a long-held Republican seat in 2018.
The 2nd Congressional District Republican primary was a toss-up between Crafts, Adrienne Bennett, a former press secretary for the former governor; and Eric Brakey, a former state senator.
Contributing: Christal Hayes; Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser
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