If you look at Luther Strange’s record, there is no doubt that he is immensely qualified to serve as our senator, and no Republican doubts that he will be as reliably conservative as Jeff Sessions. Luther has shown himself to be one of the best attorneys general in the country, and he ran the office of AG in Alabama with excellence. He effectively negotiated the BP oil spill, he was one the lead AG’s in the fight against Obamacare, and he did everything in his power to fight against the crushing and unnecessary regulations that came from DC. He also was willing to take on corruption in his own party and developed a reputation for putting the rule of law over partisan considerations. However, the problem with his appointment is that the story being told right now has nothing to do with how qualified he is and has everything to do with the perception of self-dealing that his appointment has created.
Ever since the story broke regarding Governor Bentley’s alleged affair with Rebecca Mason, the issue of whether or not the governor used state resources to engage in this affair has not been adequately resolved. The perception in this state was that Luther Strange would be involved in any investigation that would take place to determine whether any laws had been broken by Governor Bentley.
When it was announced by President Trump that Jeff Sessions would be appointed to serve as Attorney General, many conservative pundits believed that Governor Bentley would not appoint Luther Strange because this would create a perception that Luther Strange’s appointment would be a way for Bentley to kill the investigation into his alleged affair. If the Governor’s motive in appointing Luther Strange was to scuttle the investigation, then it will most likely have the opposite effect. Luther Strange’s appointment will actually put more public pressure on the state legislature and AG’s office to investigate the governor than ever before.
In addition, there will be a perception that this appointment was a quid pro quo for Luther to get his office to back off the investigation in exchange for his appointment. This perception could make it harder for Luther to be as effective in the Senate as he would be. It will also make it easier for a primary challenger to defeat Strange in the 2018 Senate race.
Let me be clear: I do not believe that Luther Strange did anything unethical or illegal to obtain this Senate seat. He has proven throughout his entire life to be a man of integrity, and I believe when this matter is investigated, Strange is going to be cleared of any wrongdoing. However, the damage has already been done and what is frustrating is that by taking this appointment it will create what I believe is a false perception that Strange is corrupt. If he would have turned this appointment down and told the Governor he couldn’t take the appointment because of the perception of corruption, that would have increased his chances of winning the primary in 2018 no matter whom the Governor appointed. Also, Strange could have been a front runner in the governor’s race if the Senate seat wasn’t an option, and his record of accomplishment is so great that he would have been a tough candidate to beat in the primary.
This is frustrating as a conservative because Luther Strange is one brightest stars in the GOP, and I don’t want this false perception of corruption to hurt someone who could accomplish so many great things for the people of this state. The best path forward is for Luther Strange to address this perception head on and explain this adequately to the voters so he can continue to be an effective leader. Hopefully this choice will not hurt him in the long term.
Mr. Reid is general practice attorney in Birmingham Alabama. He has worked for Republican leadership in the United State House of Representatives in Washington, DC, and was a health policy advisor to the Governor of Alabama. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 205-913-7406. A description of his practice areas is available at www.reidlawalabama.com.