Sessions concedes gracefully, throws support behind Tuberville — ‘I leave elected office with my integrity intact’
MOBILE — Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions conceded with grace to newly crowned Republican senatorial nominee Tommy Tuberville on Tuesday night. Sessions immediately threw his support behind his former opponent and called on his supporters to focus on beating U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.
In his concession speech on Tuesday, there was emotion in Sessions’ eyes as he took time to thank his family and recount briefly his decades representing the people of Alabama.
The race between Tuberville and Sessions was hard-fought, and not without a heavy dose of taunts towards Tuberville from Sessions, but the longtime elected official showed no signs of continuing animosity towards the former Auburn coach after media outlets called the race.
“We fought a good fight in this race… the people of Alabama have spoken, they want a new leader. A new fresh face to go to Washington, and I think they’ll have that,” began Sessions.
“We must stand behind him in November,” Sessions added of Tuberville.
“I look forward to helping Tommy Tuberville win this race,” he said.
Sessions won his first statewide race, for Alabama attorney general, in 1994. He built up a reputation as a hard-charging prosecutor for years before that while serving as a U.S. Attorney.
Unlike many long-serving politicians in the state, Jeff Sessions has been a Republican for his entire political career. He proudly tells the story of his now-wife Mary founding the College Republicans chapter at Huntingdon College in Montgomery.
Jeff and Mary Sessions will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary in the next couple of weeks, a fact that earned applause from the assembled members of media on Tuesday night.
He served as Alabama attorney general for two years before winning election to the United States Senate in 1996, taking the seat of Democrat Howell Heflin, who once cast the decisive vote to prevent Sessions from becoming a federal judge during the Reagan administration.
During his two decades in the U.S. Senate, Sessions defined himself by being the toughest elected official in America on illegal immigration and was widely regarded as one of the most conservative members in the upper chamber for his entire tenure.
In 2016, Sessions became the first prominent elected official in the United States to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump.
The endorsement was seen as widely influential at the time and an especially devastating blow to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who was seen as having a good chance at reaching the conservative voters that appreciated Sessions’ stances on immigration and trade.
Trump subsequently named Sessions U.S. attorney general in 2017, 22 years after he was first elected to Alabama’s equivalent of that same position.
Sessions, who earned the rank of Eagle Scout in his youth, also distinguished himself during his career in politics by his lack of involvement in any major financially-based ethics scandal.
A news article early in the Trump administration noted that Sessions ate a $5 turkey sandwich at his desk every day while serving as United States attorney general.
From the beginning of the administration until Sessions’ resignation after the 2018 midterm elections, he and the president were at odds over Sessions recusing himself from the federal investigation into alleged Russian collusion by the Trump campaign.
Sessions never backed down from that decision, and Trump never forgave him for it.
President Trump repeatedly attacked Sessions in the press and is widely seen as driving voters to Tuberville for the decisive Tuesday night showing by voters.
Sessions remarked about the ordeal in his concession speech.
“I saved the president’s bacon,” he said with regards to his recusal decision, arguing that it allowed for Trump’s vindication when the Mueller report became public.
“I leave elected office with my integrity intact,” said Sessions proudly, a comment that also seemed to indicate he was ending his career as a public official.