Senate

Sessions replacement: Who are the Alabama Senate primary candidates?

Alabamans head to the voting booth today and will come one step closer to electing a new U.S. senator.

Republican Jeff Sessions vacated his seat in February after he was confirmed as the U.S. attorney general. Former state Attorney General Luther Strange was picked by the governor to finish Sessions' term.

The special election primary was scheduled for Aug. 15. However, if no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election will occur at the end of September.

The general election is set for Dec. 12.

Here’s a look at the nine Republicans and seven Democrats who are running to become the next U.S. senator from Alabama.

James Beretta, Republican

Dr. James Beretta, a pain management specialist just south of Birmingham, moved to Alabama 25 years ago to raise his family in a “community-oriented” area, according to AL.com.

Beretta said he is “disillusioned” with Washington – which is why he is running for office.

"I'm tired of the corruption," he told AL.com. "I'm tired of the purpose of me being in office is to promote my own ideology and not what's being voted on and passed."

Beretta said he would like to see immigration reform “done correctly” and thinks there should be a law against texting and driving, AL.com reported. He also thinks the state of health care today is “another disaster” and said former Gov. Robert Bentley should have expanded Medicaid in Alabama.

Beretta supports President Donald Trump and thinks Trump “presents himself to the world in a much better light than the previous administration.”

Will Boyd, Democrat

The Rev. Will Boyd is a Democrat, but he doesn’t support gun control or abortion.

“I’m not somebody who wants to take guns away. I’m not somebody who wants to kill babies,” Boyd told AL.com.

He said he grew up in South Carolina around guns and would just want to enforce existing laws regarding who can purchase a firearm. As for abortion, Boyd described himself as a “man of the cloth” and emphasized the importance of adoption.

As a U.S. senator, Boyd would support “a realistic ‘path to citizenship’ plan for undocumented immigrants” who are “living and working peaceably” in the U.S., according to his campaign website.

He also opposes the privatization of Social Security, supports legislation that “helps fill the health care/Medicaid coverage gap that exists for women in Alabama,” opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership and wishes to increase the minimum wage to $14 by 2018.

Joseph Breault, Republican

Despite running for office, Joseph Breault is keeping a low profile. So low, in fact, that the Alabama GOP wasn’t even aware of who he is, according to AL.com.

And as the newspaper discovered, Breault doesn’t like to speak to reporters, either.

Breault, a chaplain based at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, was also the Republican nominee in a Utah House race last year, his LinkedIn page says.

He previously served as chaplain at a VA hospital in Salt Lake City and at the Buckley Air Force base in Aurora, Colo.

Randy Brinson, Republican

A lay minister and former university trustee, Randy Brinson also received a medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia and served as the chief of gastroenterology at Maxwell Air Force Base.

Aside from his professional accomplishments, Brinson also notes his Christian activism on his campaign website. He said he brought WAY-FM, a Christian music station, to Montgomery and headed the nonprofit Christian Coalition of Alabama.

He also founded the conservative organization Redeem the Vote, which seeks to increase voter registration and participation of Christians. Brinson stepped down from the organization to run for Senate, AL.com reported.

Now, “Randy continues to advocate strongly for America and Israel’s interests across the globe, and he values to protect us from the threat of radical jihadists and historical adversaries such as China and Russia, as they seek world domination and threaten our way of life,” his website states.

As a senator, Brinson would push to end Common Core, repeal and replace ObamaCare and protect gun rights and the freedom of religion.

Mo Brooks, Republican

Like some of his opponents, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., was born in South Carolina but moved to Alabama as a child.

But in Alabama, Brooks has been influential in politics and law. He graduated from the University of Alabama Law School, worked as a prosecutor in the Tuscaloosa District Attorney’s office and clerked for Circuit Court Judge John David Snodgrass, according to his campaign website.

He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1982, appointed Madison County district attorney in 1991 and served as the special assistant attorney general for Sessions in 1995 when Sessions was the state’s attorney general.

Brooks became a U.S. congressman in 2011 and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

As a senator, Brooks said he would defend gun rights, support Trump’s promise to build a border wall and push for sanctions against “hostile nations.”

With growing tension between Sessions and Trump – and rumors that Sessions could be next to leave the administration – Brooks offered to band together with the other GOP Senate candidates and drop out of the race to allow Sessions to have his seat back.

Brooks said last month that while he supports Trump’s policies, he does not support the “public waterboarding” of Sessions.

“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. “My response is simple: I don’t care. If this costs me politically, that’s fine but I am going to do the right thing for Alabama and America. I stand with Jeff Sessions.”

Strange, one of Brooks’ Republican opponents, said Brooks’ plan proved he is “desperate to get attention.”

The pair has also reportedly clashed over whether to keep the filibuster in the Senate.

Vann Caldwell, Democrat

Vann Caldwell is the constable in Talladega County – near the center of the state.

He has worked on a farm and for the public safety division of the University of Alabama, according to his website. After that, he developed his own security business.

"I have experience with working with a diversity of people.” Caldwell, 33, told AL.com. “I have developed [an] understanding as well as a plan for all of the people. I will give my [very] best in the betterment and growth of this state and nation. It's not magic; it will take hard work and passion, which I have.”

He said that as a senator, he would focus on the economy, which in turn would help other issues – education, the military and homeland security.

As for health care policy, Caldwell told AL.com that “by virtue of the Democratic beliefs and by virtue of the Republicans’ beliefs, only Democrats can make a health care law.”

“Republicans can only outlaw a health care law,” he said.

Jason Fisher, Democrat

Jason Fisher is a longtime resident of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, but the 45-year-old Democrat grew up working on farms in Eastern Iowa, according to his campaign website.

For Fisher, health care is a top issue – and it hits close to home for him.

Fisher’s wife unexpectedly died from a blood clot just before her 31st birthday, AL.com reported. He is now the single father of a 2-year-old girl who has special needs, the report said.

"I have had no shortage of bad luck over the last six or seven years when it comes to my personal life," Fisher said. "But there is a gift that comes from that and it is the perspective of understanding what is truly important and how to work with people in a different way to get a better result.”

He said he hopes Congress would work to improve the current health care law to make it better for Americans.

Fisher is a vice president and senior consultant at a marketing firm, but he has worked as a business manager, consultant and nonprofit executive, his website states.

Michael Hansen, Democrat

Michael Hansen, 35, said his Senate bid is a “long shot” – but it’s a shot he’s willing to take anyway.

Hansen, executive director of the health advocacy group Gasp, is openly gay and a Democrat.

In a Medium blog post announcing his run, Hansen noted that “folks are sick and tired.” He specifically noted the stereotypes that liberals, conservatives, Christians, people of color, men and white people face.

“Our list of grievances with one another goes on and on, and it’s unsustainable,” he said.

In the Senate, Hansen said he would fight for a federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, fight against policies that would systematically oppress people of color and advocate for funding family planning services, including Planned Parenthood.

Doug Jones, Democrat

A former federal prosecutor, Doug Jones said he “hope[s] to return to public office.”

On his campaign website, Jones criticized Trump for withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate change agreement. He also said he supports “a woman’s right to choose” and supports Planned Parenthood.

“The shenanigans around the 2016 campaign must be pushed aside and full equality for women made the law and the norm in America,” he said.

Former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed the candidate this week and joined in on a robocall to voters.

“Doug Jones will make a great U.S. Senator so please make sure you get out and vote on Tuesday - and I’m hoping you’ll vote for my friend, Doug Jones,” Biden said. 

Thus far, Jones has raised more than $158,000 for his campaign, AL.com reported. That’s only about half as much as some of the top GOP candidates, but it’s most likely more than any of his fellow Democrats, according to the newspaper.

Robert Kennedy Jr., Democrat

No, he’s not related to the famous political family. But Robert Kennedy Jr., does hope to become a lawmaker.

Kennedy attended Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and was stationed in Japan with the Navy. He spent nine years on active duty.

AL.com reported that Kennedy, 47, remained fairly private during an interview and declined to reveal certain personal details about his life, including his job.

His campaign website simply said Kennedy “launched his civilian career in the casino industry, and subsequently transitioned into retail.”

“I’m a fiscally responsible Democrat who leads with faith,” Kennedy said on his website. He told AL.com that he considers himself to be a “conservative Democrat” who supports gun rights.

But he also supports keeping and fixing ObamaCare and abortion rights, according to his website.

Despite staying fairly private about certain details, Kennedy led the field of Democrats in a recent WBRC-TV poll with 49 percent. Jones trailed with 28 percent.

Mary Maxwell, Republican

Mary Maxwell specifically moved to Alabama to run for the open Senate seat – all the way from Australia.

She told AL.com that she learned about the election from a Yahoo News article and decided that, after spending several decades in Australia, it was time for a move. In June, Maxwell became an Alabama resident.

Maxwell, 70, is a unique candidate – she travels the state by Greyhound bus because she doesn’t want to drive on the right-hand side of the road, she’s written about mind control and teen etiquette and she sued former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over the administration attacking Iran and Syria without a declaration of war.

Maxwell was born in Massachusetts where she lived until she moved to Australia with her late-husband in 1980.

"I don't mind admitting that as a Northerner, the South wasn't there for me," she told AL.com. "We don't see it, we don't think about it. I was never thinking about Alabama, I'll admit."

Maxwell said she “hang[s] out in front of Walmarts when [she] can, distributing copies of the Bill of Rights, usually warmly received,” according to her campaign website.

She said she is against war, mandatory vaccinations and privatizing prisons. She also would like to audit the Federal Reserve System and “would look into government bullying” as a senator.

Roy Moore, Republican

If Chuck Norris had his way, Judge Roy Moore would be the next senator. 

The "Walker, Texas Ranger" star endorsed Moore as he is "the real deal," Norris said.

“Alabama needs Judge Moore there doing what he’s always done: fighting to protect our constitutional rights to life, religious liberty and the freedom to protect ourselves and our families. And he will always put principle over politics,” Norris said. 

Moore recently served as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court but was suspended in September 2016 from chief justice for violating the canons of judicial ethics.

Prosecutors said Moore told probate judges to defy the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide. Moore said on his Senate campaign website that he retired to seek the office in 2017 and addressed the controversy by saying that he was suspended for “upholding the sanctity of marriage as between one man and one woman.”  

Moore advocated for using the military to protect the country’s southern border, immediately repealing ObamaCare and making homosexuality against military policy on his campaign website.

He is also opposed to abortion, federal funding to Planned Parenthood, same-sex marriage, civil unions and “all other threats to the traditional family order.”

Bryan Peeples, Republican

Bryan Peeples is young, has never held an elected office and doesn’t have a campaign chairman, according to AL.com.

“I’m doing this by myself,” the 37-year-old said.

As a consultant for small- and medium-sized hotels and restaurants, Peeples is focused on middle-income families and mid-sized businesses, he told AL.com.

He is also focused on tax reform and term limits. He would like to donate a portion of his Senate salary to charity, according to a “contract” on his campaign website states.

Trip Pittman, Republican

State Sen. Trip Pittman is the “natural successor to Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate,” his campaign website states. He would also be the first non-lawyer in more than 100 years to represent Alabama in the Senate, it said.

Pittman ran for state Senate after he survived a plane crash in 2007, according to his campaign website.

Pittman is anti-abortion and supports Trump’s call for a border wall. He also supports Trump’s call to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C.

Luther Strange, Republican

Strange currently holds Sessions’ old seat, as he was appointed by the governor to finish out Sessions' term. But Strange hopes to keep the office he was given.

Before his Senate appointment, Strange was Alabama’s attorney general and joined a lawsuit against the Obama administration that challenged Obama's executive order on amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

Strange said he “stands with President Trump and looks forward to working with the new administration to achieve landmark conservative success,” on his campaign website. He also supports repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and calls for immediate deportation of criminal undocumented immigrants and the construction of a border wall.

And his loyalty to Trump appears to have paid off. The president endorsed Strange in a tweet on August 8.

“Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!” Trump said.

Strange said he was honored to receive the endorsement. 

Strange raised $1.8 million in just three months, AL.com reported in July. He’s endorsed by the National Rifle Association and Perry Hooper Jr., the Alabama Trump Victory chairman.

Charles Nana, Democrat

Businessman Charles Nana immigrated to the U.S. from Cameroon in West Africa, and he splits his time between his job in Nashville and his home in Birmingham, AL.com reported.

He unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Senate last year.

“[Nana] is deeply troubled by the way faith is being used by some to serve hate, racism and greed,” his campaign website states.

Nana advocates for a “new fresh wind,” which includes free education through college.

“If we can contemplate building a wall with Mexico, we can surely afford giving our children free education from Pre-K to college,” he said on his website.  

Nana considers himself a “Berniecrat” and a “conservative Democrat,” according to AL.com.

Withdrew

-        Dominic Gentile, Republican

-        Ed Henry, Republican

-        Karen Jackson, Republican

-        Brian McGee, Democrat