Could Jeff Sessions still get his old job in the Senate back?

Emma Kinery
Attorney General Jeff Sessions waits to speak to the media  at the Department of Justice on July 20, 2017.

Since President Trump has been making Attorney General Jeff Sessions' life miserable recently, we wondered: Is it too late for Sessions to get his old job back as U.S. senator from Alabama?

Legally, it’s not out of the realm of possibility — but it’s highly unlikely.

Alabama's primary to replace Sessions in the Senate is on Aug. 15. If nobody gets 50% in that race, it goes to a primary runoff between the top two candidates at the end of September. The general election will be held in December; it's considered a safe Republican seat.

There are currently nine candidates in the GOP primary, including Sen. Luther Strange, the former attorney general of Alabama, as the incumbent. Strange was appointed by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to take Sessions' seat until the special election.

Trump in the past week has ridiculed Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, calling him “beleaguered” in a tweet.

Sessions said he intends to remain in the position “as long as it is appropriate.”

The filing deadline for the special election has already passed, so Sessions cannot get on the ballot at this point. But he could run as a write-in candidate.

Under Alabama law, in order to win by a write-in election, voters would have to spell his name correctly on ballots. In 1986, after losing the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Charles Graddick attempted to launch a write-in campaign but withdrew after concluding his name was too hard to spell, said Bill Stewart, professor emeritus of politics at the University of Alabama. Stewart said since Sessions is so well-known and easy to spell, it shouldn’t be an issue.

“The name Jeff Sessions is not quite so difficult as Graddick,” Stewart said. “He doesn’t generally go by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, just Jeff Sessions."

Given that the election is three weeks away and Sessions is still the attorney general, the chances of him campaigning as a write-in candidate are nearly zero. Nevertheless, were he to leave his current position, he is still so popular in the state – he held the Senate seat from 1996 until January — that it's not impossible, Stewart said.

“He could’ve had the Senate seat for the rest of his life if he wanted,” Stewart said.

There is some precedent for write-in U.S. Senate campaigns. Strom Thurmond, the former governor of South Carolina, won his first Senate race as a write-in in 1954 and served nearly 50 years in the Senate, first as a Democrat and later as a Republican. More recently, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, won her 2010 Senate election as a write-in candidate after losing the primary to a Tea Party-backed insurgent.

Read more:

Analysis: Trump's demand for AG Jeff Sessions to investigate Hillary Clinton is an ethical minefield

After President Trump's public attacks, can Jeff Sessions survive as attorney general?

Can Trump fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions? Yes, but it would be unprecedented