Alabama Attorney General Appointed To U.S. Senate

By John Celock

Alabama’s attorney general will be the nation’s newest U.S. senator, following an appointment by the state’s governor.

Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced Thursday that Attorney General Luther Strange (R) will succeed Republican Jeff Sessions in the Senate, following Sessions’ confirmation as U.S. attorney general. The move comes as Strange’s office has investigated Bentley’s relationship with a top advisor.

“This is truly a remarkable time in our state’s history,” Bentley said in a statement. “Alabama has surely been well represented by Senator Sessions, and I am confident Senator Strange will serve as a fine representative for our people. His leadership on a national level, service as a statewide elected official and long record of taking on tough federal issues are the very qualities that will make him a strong conservative senator for Alabama.”

Strange had already announced plans to run in a 2018 special election to fill the remainder of Sessions’ term that ends in 2021 and will now enter the race as an incumbent. He was one of six finalists that Bentley had said he was considering for appointment to the Senate. Bentley will now appoint a new attorney general to serve the remainder of Strange’s term, which expires in 2019.

Strange had announced in November that he was asking the state House of Representatives to place an impeachment investigation into Bentley on hold while his office investigated Bentley. The investigations have centered on if Bentley has been having an affair with Rebekah Mason, a top advisor, and if state resources had been used on the affair. Strange’s successor would take up that investigation.

Strange, 63, has served as state attorney general since 2011, having previously been an attorney in private practice. He has long been viewed as a future contender for higher office, including as a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2018 when Bentley is term limited. Strange emerged as a Senate hopeful when Sessions became a top advisor to President Donald Trump during last year’s campaign, before his appointment to Trump’s cabinet.

Bentley had announced that Strange was on the six-person shortlist along with U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, state Senate President Pro Temp Del Marsh, state Rep. Connie Rowe, state Economic and Community Affairs Director Jim Byard and former state Rep. Perry Hooper Jr.

Strange is the first person to be appointed to the U.S. Senate since Montana Democrat John Walsh was appointed to an open seat in February 2014. Walsh later dropped his Senate campaign and left office in January 2015.

Strange is the first appointed senator from Alabama since Democrat Maryon Allen was appointed to the Senate by then Gov. George Wallace (D) in June 1978. Allen, who succeeded her late husband, James, was defeated in a September 1978 Democratic primary runoff to hold her seat and left office in November 1978 after a new senator was elected.

Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) were the last appointed senators to win election to their seats, when they were elected in 2014 following appointments in late 2012 and early 2013. Former Sens. Mo Cowan (D-Mass.) and Jeff Chiesa (R-N.J) did not run to hold their seats following their 2013 appointments.

Strange said in a statement from the governor’s office that he was “humbled” to become a senator.

“I am greatly honored and humbled to accept the appointment to Alabama’s Senate seat vacated by Senator Jeff Sessions,” Strange said. “Senator Sessions’ commitment to public service is nearly unparalleled in Alabama history and his departure from the Senate leaves tremendous shoes to fill. I pledge to the people of Alabama to continue the same level of leadership as Jeff Sessions in consistently fighting to protect and advance the conservative values we all care about.”