DECATUR, Ala. (CN) – Despite the Super Tuesday primary looming just days away, Alabama U.S. Senate candidate and former football coach Tommy Tuberville is already prepping his supporters for a runoff gameplay.
On Tuesday, the former head coach for Auburn University’s football team spoke to a group of about 40 supporters in a back room of Libby's Catfish & Diner, which served up slabs of fried catfish and meat-and-three plates along a state highway south of Huntsville and a sprawling Tennessee River.
“Here's what we're going to do: we're going to vote next week,” Tuberville told the group. “There's probably going to be a runoff. We're going to come back up here and when we come back up here, we got to get a ton of folks. Everybody's got to bring four or five friends.”
Tuberville is one of a handful of Republican candidates seeking the party’s nomination to challenge Democratic Senator Doug Jones’ reelection bid. Because none of the candidates are expected to win a majority of votes, the primary will likely go to a runoff decided on March 31.
Jones is considered one of the most vulnerable senators up for reelection this year. Representing a state where 62% of voters supported President Donald Trump in 2016, Jones cast his vote to convict him in the Senate’s impeachment trial this month.
Last year, the Alabama Legislature passed a law – currently blocked by a federal judge – that made performing an abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, a felony. On Monday, the Alabama Republican Party blasted Jones for voting against a federal bill that would criminalize the performance of an abortion on a fetus 20 weeks or older.
With a campaign slogan of “One Alabama,” Jones has touted the bipartisan bills he introduced in the Senate. According to his campaign website, those legislative efforts include funding for historically black colleges and universities, eliminating a tax on veterans’ surviving spouses nicknamed the “widow’s tax,” and increasing funding access for rural broadband, which is intended to aid in improving education in rural schools.
Jones’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the primary race.
In the weeks leading up to the March 3 primary, the Republican field has appeared to center on two leading candidates: Tuberville and Jeff Sessions. Sessions formerly held the Senate seat but relinquished it to become Trump’s attorney general. The president pressured him to step down after Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
While Sessions’ campaign did not return a request for comment, a video posted last month said Sessions, as attorney general, pushed back on the “radical secular left’s” campaign against religious liberty and “defended the faithful in court.”
A poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy on behalf of the Alabama Daily News earlier this month found the two candidates neck and neck, with 31% of potential Republican voters backing Sessions and 29% supporting Tuberville. Another candidate, Congressman Bradley Byrne, came in third place, polling at 17%.