“If all Republican candidates collectively agree to simultaneously withdraw from this race, then we clear the way for the Republican Party of Alabama to nominate Jeff Sessions to be the Republican nominee for the December 12, 2017 general election,” Brooks wrote in a Wednesday afternoon statement from his campaign.
The 5th District congressman called his proposed arrangement a “win-win promise” for both Sessions and President Donald Trump to appoint a new attorney general. While Trump has been critical of his attorney general, he has not yet fired Sessions.
Sessions was serving his fourth term as Alabama’s junior senator when Trump picked him to be attorney general. Nine candidates are competing for the Republican nomination to fill the remainder of Sessions’ term.
The GOP primary has amounted to a presidential loyalty contest of late, with the Senate Leadership Fund and the National Republican Senatorial Committee backing the appointed incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange.
They’ve attacked Brooks for not having originally backed Trump during the 2016 campaign (he supported Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) and for being critical of the president.
“I support President Trump’s policies, but this public waterboarding of one of the greatest people Alabama has ever produced is inappropriate and insulting to the people of Alabama who know Jeff Sessions so well and elected him so often by overwhelming margins,” Brooks said.
Trump won 63 percent of the vote in the Yellowhammer State last fall and remains very popular among GOP primary voters. Sessions ran unopposed in his last re-election in 2014, securing 97 percent of the vote.
“I recognize that President Trump is popular in Alabama. My closest friends and political advisers have told me to not side with Jeff Sessions, that it will cost me politically to do so,” Brooks said, before adding that he was doing the “right thing” for Alabama.
Asked about Brooks’ proposal Wednesday evening, Alabama’s senior senator, Richard. J. Shelby, said simply, “Jeff Sessions is the attorney general right now.”
Shelby has endorsed Strange. “The primary is in two weeks. Maybe the polls aren’t doing well for Brooks,” Shelby said.
Strange led in a recent poll conducted by the Alabama firm Cygnal, with Brooks in third place. (The poll was funded by eight unnamed businesses and associations.) Brooks’ own internal polling from earlier this month also showed him in third place behind former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy S. Moore and Strange.
“I talked to Sessions yesterday,” Shelby added. “He likes the job he’s got.”
The primary election is Aug. 15 with a run-off scheduled for Sept. 26 if no candidate clears 50 percent of the vote. The general election will take place in December.