Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate

Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate
© Anna Moneymaker

Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard Sessions Senate outlook slides for GOP Supreme Court blocks order that relaxed voting restrictions in Alabama Justice Dept. considering replacing outgoing US attorney in Brooklyn with Barr deputy: report MORE challenged Tommy Tuberville, his opponent for the Alabama Republican Senate nomination, to a series of five debates as the two hammer each other in an increasingly bitter race.

“It is time for you to stop running away, and face me and the voters of Alabama," Sessions wrote in a letter released Tuesday aimed at putting pressure on Tuberville to do the debates.

"No candidate who is scared to debate or unable to defend our values is worthy of support from the people of Alabama. I challenge you to a series of five debates before the voters of Alabama, one for each major media market in our state. This will allow us to discuss the unique issues of each geographic area, as well as national and international issues,” Sessions added.

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Tuberville, the former football coach for Auburn University, issued a blunt response, saying that “If coaching taught me anything, it's that you don't let the losing team dictate the game when you're sitting on a lead.”

Sessions hit back on Twitter: “If watching you coach taught me anything @TTuberville, it’s that you’re no good at sitting on a lead."

"That’s why you finished 5-7 and 4-8 in your last seasons at Auburn and Cincinnati. If you are too weak to debate, you do not deserve to represent the people of Alabama,” Sessions added.

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The challenge is the latest salvo in an ongoing back-and-forth between the two Republicans.

Tuberville narrowly edged out Sessions in the Senate GOP primary in March by under 2 points. Since no candidate in the race broke 50 percent, the pair will meet again in a runoff on July 14. 

Tuberville has recently hammered Sessions for recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election meddling, a decision he said abandoned President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE and led to the appointment of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE

“3 years ago today @JeffSessions threw @realDonaldTrump to the wolves with the Mueller appointment. When faced with supporting POTUS or running scared, Jeff Sessions chose the easy way out and recused himself. I won't ever run from a fight in the U.S. Senate,” Tuberville tweeted on May 17, the three-year anniversary of Mueller's appointment.

Trump, who has long criticized Sessions over his recusal in the federal Russia probe, has endorsed Tuberville in the GOP Senate race.

Sessions has maintained that he was required to remove himself from overseeing the Russia probe, citing his early involvement in the Trump campaign.

“Look, I know your anger, but recusal was required by law. I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did. It protected the rule of law & resulted in your exoneration. Your personal feelings don't dictate who Alabama picks as their senator, the people of Alabama do,” Sessions said last Friday.

The former attorney general has repeatedly touted himself as aligned with Trump's agenda, often noting that he was the first senator to endorse Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. Session's letter Tuesday challenging his opponent to a series of debates comes as some polls show him trailing Tuberville.

Sessions and Tuberville are running for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, whose seat the GOP views as a top pickup opportunity in a Senate map that otherwise puts Republicans mostly on the defense.

Jones won his seat after his 2017 opponent, Roy MooreRoy Stewart Moore Senate outlook slides for GOP Trump to hold rally in Sessions's hometown for opponent in Senate runoff: report Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama MORE, faced a string of accusations that he had romantically pursued underage girls.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as “lean” Republican.