Former AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially announced a bid for his old Alabama Senate seat on Thursday, entering a crowded primary in the race to challenge vulnerable Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.). 

“Our freedoms have never been under attack like they are today," he wrote in the announcement on his campaign website. "We have major party candidates for President campaigning on socialism, confiscating firearms, and closing down churches they disagree with. I’ve battled these forces my entire life, and I’m not about to surrender now.  Let’s go!”

Speculation over whether Sessions would enter the race swirled around Washington in recent weeks, with the former senator having made calls to members of the Alabama congressional delegation to gauge their level of support in the event he filed to run. 

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The Republican represented Alabama in the upper chamber for two decades before being tapped by President Trump to serve as attorney general. 

After recusing himself from the Russia inquiry, Sessions ultimately resigned in November 2018 at Trump’s request, ending his tenure at the Department of Justice on a rocky note with the Trump administration. 

Despite widespread criticisms from Trump, Sessions maintains a high favorability rating among GOP voters in the Yellowhammer State and has stated he still backs the president and his policies. 

During an interview with Tucker CarlsonTucker CarlsonFormer Fox News anchor Shepard Smith donates 0,000 to independent journalism nonprofit Fox's Neil Cavuto rips into Trump over attacks on Chris Wallace's impeachment coverage CBS employee fired for allegedly leaking Robach hot mic clip denies she leaked the tape MORE on Thursday evening, Sessions heavily leaned into his support of Trump. 

“Well, I hope so,” he said when asked if he will have the support of the president. 

“I think you will respect my work, I was there for the Trump agenda every day, I was there, there’s no doubt about it. I was the first Republican, the first senator to endorse him. We pushed his immigration agenda, his trade agenda and began to work toward a more realistic foreign policy that doesn't get us in endless wars and I think he was right about all three of them.”  

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And in a campaign video released on his website, he praises Trump’s presidency, noting he hasn’t criticized him since he left the administration. 

“When I left President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE’s cabinet, did I write a tell-all book? No,” Sessions said in the ad.

“Did I go on CNN and attack the president? Nope. Have I said a cross word about our president? Not one time.”

Though Sessions would start with widespread name recognition, he faces a number of hurdles in securing the nomination, with multiple sources noting the White House cautioned Sessions’ inner circle against launching a bid. 

Trump remains widely popular in Alabama and his endorsement has previously helped GOP candidates in contested primaries. 

Sessions is slated to face off against Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), former Auburn football Coach Tommy Tuberville, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, businessman Stanley Adair, and state Rep. Arnold Mooney.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost to Doug Jones in a special election in 2017 to replace Sessions, is also running again.

Sessions has already secured the endorsement of Alabama's other senator, Richard Shelby (R), who told reporters last week: “Oh yeah, if he runs, I will. He's always endorsed me. He's my friend." Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMichelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule MORE (R-Mo.) also voiced his support for his candidacy.

But Sessions has not secured backing from key Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Todd Young (R-Ind.). 

Republicans are itching to oust Jones, who replaced Sessions after beating Moore in 2017.

“Before he challenges me, he's got about six challengers in that Republican primary that are already sniping at him. So, I don't make of anything. I'm going to watch that primary,” Jones said during an appearance on SiriusXM’s The Joe Madison Show.

“It's going to be a really divisive primary…. You've got somebody else jumping in there that the President of the United States has said it was the biggest mistake he's ever made by appointing him.”

Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct during that campaign but has strongly denied the allegations.

Jones became the first Democrat to be elected to the Senate from Alabama in more than two decades, and is seen as one of the most vulnerable senators facing reelection. The Cook Political Report rates his seat as a "toss up." 

Jordain Carney contributed.