Alabama postpones March 31 GOP Senate runoff

Alabama postpones March 31 GOP Senate runoff
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Alabama is postponing its GOP Senate runoff scheduled for later this month to July 14 amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said Wednesday she would use her executive authority to move the runoff race between former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book Tuberville breaks DC self-quarantine policy to campaign MORE and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville from March 31 to July to try to slow the spread of the virus.

“The ability to hold free and fair elections is an inherent right as citizens of the United States and the great state of Alabama, but the safety and wellbeing of Alabama citizens is paramount,” Ivey said in a statement. “Delaying the election to July 14 is not a decision I came to lightly, but one of careful consideration.”

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The decision comes after Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) issued an opinion on Ivey's executive authority at the request of Secretary of State John Merrill (R).

Tuberville and Sessions will now have another four months to slug it out for the right to face Sen. Doug Jones (D), perhaps the most vulnerable incumbent senator up for reelection this year.

Tuberville led the first round of voting earlier this month with 33.4 percent of the vote. Sessions finished just behind him, at 31.6 percent, forcing a runoff.

Sessions has a long road ahead, even with the added time to campaign. Early polls conducted after the initial round of voting showed Tuberville leading Sessions by 7- to 12-point margins. President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE, still angry with Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, endorsed Tuberville in a tweet.

“I know that Governor Ivey has considered the health of Alabamians and that she has focused on their best interests in making her decision. The safety and health of Alabamians must take precedence," Sessions said in a statement.

“I am confident that Secretary of State John Merrill and Circuit Clerks across the state, in consultation with public health officials, will work hard to ensure a safe and orderly runoff election on July 14th," he added. "It is important that every voter's voice has a fair chance to be heard, whether the vote is cast via an absentee ballot, or at the ballot box on election day."

The former attorney general added: "It will be very difficult for Tommy Tuberville to hide from debates for four months. He will have to conquer his fears, and face me and the voters.”