• Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated Former Attorney General and US Senator Jeff Sessions in the Republican primary runoff for US Senate in Alabama. 
  • The race largely played as a fight over which candidate is more loyal and would best serve Trump, who won the state by a margin of 27 percentage points in 2016. 
  • Tuberville will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, the most vulnerable Democratic US Senator in 2020, this fall. 
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Polls closed at 7 p.m. Central Time and 8 p.m. Eastern Time. 

The stakes:

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated former Attorney General and US Senator Jeff Sessions for the Republican nomination for US Senate to face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.

Jones was elected in a December 2017 special election to replace Sessions, who vacated the seat he represented for over 20 years to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general. Now, as Jones is up for re-election for a full term, Sessions is fighting for his old US Senate seat in what could make or break his political career. 

Sessions and Tuberville advanced to a runoff, which was delayed to July 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after the March 3 primary. 

The race largely played out into a fight over which candidate is more loyal to Trump, who won the state by a margin of 27 percentage points in 2016 and remains highly popular in the state.

While Sessions had tried to tie himself to Trump, both Trump and his campaign have actively repudiated Sessions in the run-up to the runoff in addition to Trump endorsing Tuberville. 

—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2020

Sessions’ rocky tenure as attorney general was marked by both public and private conflicts with Trump. In the months before Sessions’ November 2018 departure, Trump publicly lambasted Sessions for not recusing himself from overseeing the DOJ’s investigations of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, saying he “never took control” of the Department and only got the job because of his “loyalty” to Trump. 

Since then, Sessions and Trump sparred on Twitter over the election. 

—Jeff Sessions (@jeffsessions) July 11, 2020

But while Tuberville — who has never held elected office before — doesn’t have the same political baggage or complicated history with Trump, his career in the private sector has generated its own controversies. 

The New York Times reported that Tuberville’s post-Auburn business venture of co-founding a hedge fund with John Stroud went up in flames and ended up with Stroud being sentenced to ten years in prison for fraud, and Tuberville losing all the money he put into the fund and being sued by investors, which he settled in 2013.  

A spokesman for Tuberville told The Times that the coach “was as surprised as anyone to learn Stroud had lost all the money, including Coach’s. He never received a dime; it was a dead loss for him and his family,” adding, “The Lord humbles us on many occasions, and this was such a moment for Coach.”

Despite some negative headlines late in his campaign, an independent poll of the race conducted by Auburn University at Montgomery showed Tuberville leading Sessions by a comfortable margin with 47% of likely Republican runoff voters indicating they would vote for Tuberville, 31% supporting Sessions, and 22% undecided. 

The poll also showed Sessions leading Jones by six percentage points and Tuberville leading Jones by eight points in a hypothetical general election matchup. Jones’ seat is rated lean Republican by election handicappers at the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections and rated likely Republican by Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. 

Alabama is also holding Tuesday’s runoffs as reported cases of COVID-19 in the state rise. Unlike most other states, Alabama does not allow early-in person voting, and imposes stricter requirements on absentee voting than any other US state. 

While Alabama is allowing voters to cast an absentee ballot without an excuse for Tuesday’s runoffs, the state successfully fought in court to uphold rules requiring voters to both submit a photocopy of an approved photo ID and either obtain two witness signatures or get their ballot notarized in order for their absentee ballot to be counted. 

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