Republicans will have to wait to rally behind a challenger to Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), as Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) pushed the March 31 Republican primary runoff election to July 14 amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The runoff is between former Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who finished in the top two spots after the March 3 primary. The governor’s postponement will also delay Republican runoffs for a couple of congressional seats.
“This too shall pass, folks,” Ivey said at a Wednesday press conference. “It truly will pass — but it will only pass by following the doctor’s advice, by using a little common sense and by having some patience.”
Echoing her fellow governors who have made similar announcements this week, Ivey expressed concern for poll workers, often older and thus more at-risk to fall seriously ill, and at the idea of flouting guidelines about large groups congregating.
Attorney General Steve Marshall confirmed that Ivey has the unilateral authority to postpone the election under a state of emergency.
Republicans see Jones’ seat as relatively easy pickings, after his major upset in the 2017 special election against a scandal-ridden Roy Moore. Before that, a Democrat hadn’t won statewide in Alabama since 2008 and hadn’t won a senatorship since 1997.
President Donald Trump endorsed Tuberville last week, a blow to the Sessions campaign and evidence of the lingering grudge Trump holds towards his former attorney general.