Alabama GOP congressman preps possible Senate bid against Doug Jones

Alabama GOP congressman preps possible Senate bid against Doug Jones
© Greg Nash

GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne is taking steps to mount a possible Senate bid in 2020 against Democratic incumbent Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama, Byrne told The Hill on Thursday.

The conservative House Republican is reaching out to colleagues in the Alabama delegation and driving around the state to gauge support from voters.

“I’m thinking about running for the U.S. Senate seat in 2020,” Byrne told The Hill outside the Capitol. “I’ve made one initial drive around the state to talk to people. I feel like I need to make some more drives around the state to talk to some more people."

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“I feel like I’ve got plenty of time to make the decision, but I feel like I’ve had a lot of encouragement from people,” he said, adding that chances he’ll jump in are “greater than 50 percent.”

Jones won election to the Senate in December after upsetting Republican Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreSexual assault is not a game — stop using women to score political points GAO investigating after employee featured in Project Veritas video Roy Moore dismisses Kavanaugh accusation: 'So obvious' when claims come 'just days before a very important event' MORE in a special election in the deep-red state after news reports that Moore had pursued sexual or romantic relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Alabama voters will decide again in 2020 whether to reelect Jones, a former federal prosecutor, to a full six-year term in the Senate, or put a Republican back in the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Session.

“Last year we had a very interesting race in Alabama that did not end up the right way for my party and I think I cannot only win the seat but can serve effectively for the people of Alabama,” said Byrne, an attorney and former state lawmaker who ran an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010. 

“Now it’s not really my decision. I want other people to tell me whether they think it’s a good idea or not,” he continued. “If there’s a significant number of people who say we don’t think you should run, then I’ll stay in the House and be happy, because I’m enjoying myself in the House.”

Still, Byrne maintained that Alabama would benefit by having an experienced GOP House member run for the Senate.

He has already spoken to his colleague Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksLatino groups intervene in Alabama census lawsuit Alabama GOP congressman preps possible Senate bid against Doug Jones Loyalty to Donald Trump is new normal for the Republican Party MORE (R-Ala.), who ran against Moore in last year’s Senate primary, and doesn’t anticipate that Brooks will run again.

Rep. Gary PalmerGary James PalmerOvernight Health Care: House votes to repeal medical device tax | Fierce ObamaCare critic joins administration | GOP senators target DC individual mandate The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ala.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is taking a look at the race, too, but it’s unlikely Palmer and Byrne would run against each other because they are close friends.

“It looks like we need someone from our House delegation and, so far, it looks like I’m the one stepping forward,” Byrne said. “We have great need for people in the Senate representing Alabama who understand how Washington works. Not because we want to become a part of the Washington swamp, but because we need to make the changes that are necessary to clean up those things and also to be there to stand up for Alabama.”

Byrne, a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said he has no personal animus toward Jones. He called him a “great guy” but voiced disagreement with his policy positions.

“I like Doug Jones. He’s a personal friend of mine. He’s a terrific lawyer, but I don’t think he’s voting along with Alabama values,” Byrne said in the interview. “We need somebody who’s going to go win that election and then get in that position over there and represent Alabama.

“He’s a great guy. It has nothing to do about anything personal but I’ve watched his votes, and watched some of the things that he’s said, and I know that they are not in keeping with mainstream Alabama political thinking."