Bentley appoints Luther Strange U.S. senator

By: Lee Hedgepeth

Gov. Robert Bentley has announced his appointment of state Attorney General Luther Strange as Alabama’s next U.S. senator. Strange, a Republican, will replace Jeff Sessions, who has just been confirmed as U.S. Attorney General.

Strange had already announced his intention to run for the seat in a special election, even if he had not been chosen to serve by the governor in the interim.

Gabriel Tynes/Lagniappe | Luther Strange in Mobile in December during President-elect Donald Trump’s “thank you” tour. Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Strange to the U.S. Senate vacated by now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“I am greatly honored and humbled to accept the appointment to Alabama’s Senate seat vacated by Senator Jeff Sessions,” Strange said. “Sen. Sessions’ commitment to public service is nearly unparalleled in Alabama history and his departure from the senate leaves tremendous shoes to fill. I pledge to the people of Alabama to continue the same level of leadership as Jeff Sessions in consistently fighting to protect and advance the conservative values we all care about.”

Luther Strange was only one of about 20 candidates considered by the governor as a potential replacement for Sessions, but he has long been seen as the frontrunner for the position.

“This is truly a remarkable time in our state’s history,” Gov. Bentley said. “Alabama has surely been well represented by Sen. Sessions, and I am confident Sen. Strange will serve as a fine representative for our people. His leadership on a national level, service as a statewide elected official and long record of taking on tough federal issues are the very qualities that will make him a strong conservative senator for Alabama.”

The appointment of Strange to replace Sessions brings up questions of a potential conflict of interest on the part of Gov. Bentley, as impeachment proceedings against Bentley were halted when Attorney General Strange asked they be delayed because of his office’s “active investigations” about “related work.”

“I respectfully request that the committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed,” Strange wrote to the chair of the impeachment committee, who complied with the request.

When asked whether those investigations posed a conflict of interest for Bentley at a recent GOP event in Mobile, Strange sidestepped the question.

“The Legislature has their job to do; we have our job to do. Beyond that, I don’t really want to comment on anything that might be pending out there. The Legislature has to make their own decisions,” Strange told members of the media, including Lagniappe. “I think I’ve made this clear before — with some of the articles that are written — we’ve never said that we’re investigating the governor. We asked the Legislature to hold off because they were involved in a very public matter. We felt there were some common issues we needed to address. Beyond that I haven’t commented, and I don’t plan to comment.”

Strange won’t have long to serve before he’ll have to run for the office again; a special election for the Senate seat will be held in 2018, and Strange is likely to face at least Republican primary opposition.