His numerous visits to DeKalb County paid off for former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who prevailed over former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the GOP Runoff Election Tuesday.
Tuberville, 65, becomes the party nominee to run against the incumbent Democrat, Doug Jones, in November. Republicans currently hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. Jones became the first Democrat since 1992 to win a Senate election in Alabama when he defeated Republican Roy Moore during a special election to replace Sessions, who held the seat for 20 years before President Donald Trump appointed him as U.S. attorney general in 2017.
Sessions failed to get Trump’s endorsement despite helping the president gain momentum as an early supporter and a major policy advisor to the campaign. Sessions resigned in November 2018 at Trump's request following months of conflict over his recusal from investigations relating to Russian election interference. Sessions endorsed Tuberville and said he is retiring from politics.
Tuberville is the former football coach at Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. He is the only coach in Auburn football history to beat in-state rival Alabama six consecutive times – although Crimson Tide fans clearly aren’t holding a grudge 12 years after he left the Plains.
“Thank you for your trust, your confidence,” Tuberville told supporters. “Your message of change is loud and clear.”
In the March 3 primary election, Tuberville received 33.4% of the statewide vote to Sessions' 31.6%. This time, Tuberville dominated by gaining 60% of the statewide vote and 80% of the 8,120 votes cast in the DeKalb County contest, according to unofficial results.
Tuesday’s GOP runoff was postponed for 15 weeks after COVID-19 disrupted the calendar. With the disease rebounding, signs at polling places encouraged voters to wear face masks and social distance as a precaution. Secretary of State John Merrill strongly encouraged voting by absentee ballot. DeKalb Circuit Clerk Todd Greeson said more than 200 absentee ballots were applied for locally. In the final count, there were 182 absentee votes returned and 14 provisional ballots.
Tuesday was also the GOP runoff in the Criminal Appeals Place Two race between incumbent Beth Kellum and Will Smith. Smith got 56% of the vote in DeKalb but is projected to have lost to Kellum, who got 56% of the statewide count.
Next up (aside from municipal elections on August 25) will be the General Election on Nov. 3 to choose the next president, senator, U.S. representative, Public Service Commissioner, Alabama Supreme Court, DeKalb district judge and four proposed amendments to the 1901-ratified Alabama Constitution.