Sen. Luther Strange‘s new campaign ad leads with an image of politicians writhing in pain while getting sprayed down while standing in a car wash. According to the voiceover, this symbolizes Strange cleaning up corruption in Montgomery, Ala. during his time as state attorney general.
But in the two primary cases cited by Strange — the resignation of Gov. Robert Bentley and the prosecution of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard — his role was more ambiguous.
In the case of Bentley, Strange is the subject of an ethics complaint with the Alabama State Bar over his handling of the former governor’s impeachment investigation. Bentley faced impeachment due to allegations of an affair and possible use of state resources to facilitate it.
“It appears that Sen. Luther Strange has egregiously violated his duty to his client, the State of Alabama,” the complaint by local lawyer and columnist Sam McLure reads, “by accepting Governor Robert Bentley’s appointment to U.S. Senate after stalling the Legislature’s impeachment investigation into Governor Robert Bentley and halting his own investigation in to Governor Robert Bentley.”
As Alabama Attorney General, Strange asked the Alabama House Judiciary Committee to suspend the impeachment investigation because he was conducting “related work”. The nature of that work was never revealed.
Four months later, Bentley appointed Strange to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who left to join President Trump’s administration as attorney general. The governor also set the election for 2018, giving Strange a year longer in the seat before facing an election than state law dictated. Bentley resigned one month after the appointment and his successor, Gov. Kay Ivey, moved the election up to 2017 in accordance with state law.
Alabama’s state auditor Jim Ziegler also announced plans to sue over Strange’s appointment, saying that state law required an election to be held to fill Sessions’ seat, rather than an appointment by the governor.
“The whole thing stinks,” Ziegler told the AP. “We’ve got a Bentley appointed senator instead of a peoples’ elected senator.”
State Rep. Ed Henry has also said publicly that in a private meeting, Bentley claimed he was appointing Strange to “get rid” of him, because the attorney general’s office was corrupt.
In addition to Henry, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore; Christian Coalition of Alabama President Randy Brinson; and businessman Dom Gentile are also challenging Strange for the Republican nomination.
Democrats former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, medical marijuana activist Ron Crumpton, and newcomer Robert Kennedy Jr. have all filed to run in the primary.
Without naming Henry, Strange has said such assertions come from “a disgruntled group of people who are mad at our office for doing our job.”
Though Strange’s claiming responsibility for the prosecution of Hubbard, who was sentenced to four years in prison on ethics violations, doesn’t carry the same insinuation of scandal, it, too, is being challenged — Strange was attorney general when his office prosecuted Hubbard, but Strange recused himself from the case because he had patronized Hubbard’s printing company.