‘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…’
(Liberty Headlines) Alabama is postponing its Republican primary runoff between former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions because of the coronavirus, the governor announced Wednesday.
The runoff will now be held on July 14, Ivey said. The winner of the GOP runoff will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones—who replaced Sessions when he moved to the Justice Department after a 20-year Senate career. The delay also affects primary runoffs for state and local races.
Despite lacking an incumbency advantage that both his primary and likely general-election rival enjoy, Tuberville is favored to win based on the projections of the initial primary and the backing of President Donald Trump, who spurned his one-time ally and attorney general after Sessions recused himself from the Mueller investigation. Tuberville led in the initial round, taking 33% of the vote to Sessions’ 31%.
Five other states also have postponed their primaries because of the coronavirus pandemic: Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland and Ohio. In announcing the decision, Ivey noted the White House recommendation that people avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.
“We would be taking a human health risk just by having people stand in line waiting to vote,” she said. “I’m also aware that our faithful poll workers are often retired and many among those have the highest risk.”
Alabama has 46 confirmed case of coronavirus, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, which has cautioned that the number of people carrying the virus is probably higher.
In a statement, Sessions said the “safety and health of Alabamians must take precedence” and challenged Tuberville to debate now that the runoff is months, rather than weeks, away.
“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 said.
Tuberville did not issue an immediate comment on the decision.
The governor, in urging people to maintain social distancing, practiced what she preached at a news conference Wednesday by standing apart from Merrill and Attorney General Steve Marshall. Reporters were directed to sit in chairs spaced about 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart.
“Avoid large gatherings, even family and friends, and if you can, please stay home,” Ivey said.
Unlike some states, Alabama does not have early voting or “no excuse” absentee voting. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said voters who request an absentee ballot can check the “illness” box if they are concerned about contracting or spreading illness at the polls during the July 14 runoff.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press