Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the state’s much-anticipated U.S. Senate Republican runoff between former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville previously scheduled for March 31 is postponed until July 14.
Citing concerns involving the COVID-19 coronavirus threat, Ivey announced she was exercising the authority granted to her based on an opinion released by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall a day earlier.
“Exercising my extraordinary powers under the Emergency Management Act, I am setting Alabama’s Primary Runoff Election for July 14, 2020,” Ivey said in a statement. “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. Our State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, is recommending that we should practice social distancing and refrain from public gatherings of more than 25 individuals. Maintaining a 6-foot distance between one another is paramount. This guidance alone would be making an election day a hotbed for spreading the virus.”
“Persons who are 65 years or older as well as those with previous heart and lung diseases are more vulnerable to the Coronavirus,” she added. “Knowing the average age of our faithful poll workers qualifies them to be most at-risk adds the necessity to extend the election runoff date. Delaying the election to July 14 is not a decision I came to lightly, but one of careful consideration. I appreciate the guidance of Attorney General Steve Marshall and Secretary of State John H. Merrill for their collaboration to ensure the continuity of our state government.”
Two other key runoff primaries runoff elections in Alabama were also impacted by Ivey’s decision. In Alabama’s first congressional district, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl faces former State Senator Bill Hightower (R) for the GOP nod in a race for the seat Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is vacating at the end of his term. In Alabama’s second congressional district, Dothan, AL businessman Jeff Coleman faces former State Representative Barry Moore (R) for the Republican nomination in the seat Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) is vacating at the end of her term.
Sessions commended the decision in a statement.
“I know that Governor Ivey has considered the health of Alabamians and that she has focused on their best interests in making her decision,” Sessions said. “The safety and health of Alabamians must take precedence,” he said. “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. 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. We intend to maintain our vigorous campaign up until the last day, even as we are careful to do so in a manner that puts the health and safety of the public first.”
Sessions also took a shot at his opponent Tuberville for his lack of willingness to debate.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump gave Tuberville his endorsement, and Tuberville has been ahead most of the way since the March 3 primary based on polling.
Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), the incumbent in the general election that will face either Tuberville or Sessions in November, also applauded Ivey’s call.
“Amid this COVID-19 public health emergency, I commend Governor Ivey’s decision to delay the runoff election until July 14th,” Jones said in a statement. “Right now, everyone’s top priority should be to stop the spread of the virus and keep folks safe at home, and that includes allowing Alabamians to vote absentee and vote by mail. It’s crucial that we expand access to the ballot box, enact early voting and expand opportunities to vote by mail in Alabama so that all eligible voters are able to participate in our democracy.”
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