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Wednesday
Aug162017

Moderate mayor wins Republican primary to replace Rep. Chaffetz in Utah

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- John Curtis, the mayor of Provo, Utah, won the Republican primary in his state's third congressional district Tuesday, capping a campaign that will see him advance to November's general election after he collected over 15,000 signatures from party members simply to make the primary ballot.

Curtis' victory comes in the course of the district's special election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz who officially resigned from his seat in May. He will face Democrat Kathie Allen and a collection of third party candidates in the general election on November 7.

The heavily conservative district, which Chaffetz represented from 2008 until this year, is widely expected to remain in Republican hands, but voters across Utah have previously registered their hesitations about President Donald Trump, who failed to receive a majority of the vote in the district in 2016, and earlier lost the statewide caucus to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, by a wide margin. Curtis admitted during his campaign to having not voted for Trump in November.

 Former Utah state Rep. Chris Herrod finished second to Curtis Tuesday. Herrod secured the Republican nomination for the seat via the party's convention, but still faced a primary challenge after Curtis and businessman Tanner Ainge collected enough signatures to earn a spot in the race, according to The Salt Lake Tribune

While Curtis' campaign had its roots in the signature-collection effort, he received a number of high profile endorsements in recent weeks to bolster his reputation, including from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and the Tribune, the state's largest newspaper. Despite that support, Curtis has faced questions about his conservative credentials. Curtis once headed a county Democratic party committee, and was a registered Democrat until 2006, when he switched his registration to Republican.

He has served as mayor of Provo, the district's largest city and home to Brigham Young University -- the alma mater of all three of Tuesday's candidates -- since 2010.

Herrod had the backing of two sitting U.S. senators, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. and Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the latter for whom Herrod worked as Utah state director during the 2016 presidential race.

Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge ,who is well known in Utah for his time as a college basketball player at BYU, was the political newcomer of the group, though had earned the support of 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Chaffetz resignation in the Spring took some in the Republican party by surprise. Thought to be a rising star in the party, the representative made a name for himself as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and gained political visibility after the panel pursued aggressive investigations of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Internal Revenue Service and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

In November, Chaffetz won reelection to his fifth term by a 73.5 to 26.5 percent margin over his Democratic competitor. The winner of the general election this November will complete Chaffetz's term and be up for reelection in 2018.

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Wednesday
Aug162017

Moore, Strange advance to GOP runoff in Alabama special election

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Incumbent U.S. Senator Luther Strange and former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore have advanced to a runoff election in Alabama's GOP primary to replace the seat vacated by now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sources projected.

On the Democratic side, it is projected that former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones -- best known for leading the prosecution of two Klansmen for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church -– won the nomination outright, avoiding a runoff.

The race on the GOP side was hotly contested between Strange, Moore and U.S. Representative Mo Brooks, with strong disagreements about which candidate would best be able to advance President Trump's agenda in the senate.

President Trump unexpectedly backed Strange, an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, endorsing him in a tweet last week.


Strange was appointed to the seat in February by former Governor Robert Bentley. Strange, then the state Attorney General, was investigating Bentley for allegedly using state money to cover up a sex scandal. The move to appoint Strange sparked criticism from many in the state. Bentley resigned from the governorship in April.

Moore is well-known in the state, and has raised eyebrows for his stances and legal judgments from Alabama's Supreme Court. He previously served as the state's chief justice but was suspended in November 2003 and then removed from the bench for refusing federal court orders to take down a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building. In 2012 he won election to the position again and last September was suspended once more, for the rest of his term, in part for directing the state's probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He resigned in April to run for the Senate.

Moore was endorsed by conservative actor Chuck Norris, who said, "Judge Roy Moore is the real deal. The Washington establishment knows they won't be able to count on him, but Alabama voters can ... That's why the Washington establishment is spending millions trying to defeat Judge Moore."

Moore celebrated the news earlier tonight in a tweet.


Strange has the backing of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McConnell.

The PAC, which has spent $3.5 million on the race as of late July, according to Politico, largely focused their attacks on Brooks for comments he made criticizing Trump during the 2016 presidential primaries. Brooks was an early supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz before pledging his support to Trump.

If Moore were to beat Strange in the runoff election, it would be a major blow both Trump and McConnell, and a sign that anti-establishment candidates may have a better chance to win GOP nominations in the coming 2018 midterm elections.

The runoff election is scheduled for September 26, and the general election will be held on December 12.

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Tuesday
Aug152017

White House staffers caught off guard by Trump's contentious news conference

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- Responding to a contentious news conference at Trump Tower Tuesday, some members of White House staff registered surprise over President Donald Trump's decision to field questions and engage in a public debate over his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, sources told ABC News.

Trump defended his initial reaction to the clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters that identified hatred, bigotry and violence "on many sides," saying Tuesday that he thought there was "blame on both sides."

The president additionally questioned the "changing [of] culture" that resulted from the removal of statues of American leaders. The displacement of a monument featuring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee spawned last weekend's protests.

One woman was killed and others were left injured in the clashes after a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters. Police arrested James Alex Fields, 20, and charged him with second-degree murder in the incident.

As Trump faced a second round of criticism over his remarks on Tuesday, inside the White House, staffers expressed worry about what the president's words would mean for the administration's agenda.

The concern about the consequences was not universal, however. One West Wing staffer dismissed the firestorm over the episode, saying, "Let Trump be Trump."

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Tuesday
Aug152017

Lawmakers slam Trump for laying 'blame on both sides' in Charlottesville rally

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s press conference Tuesday afternoon, originally scheduled to focus on U.S. infrastructure, deteriorated into a spirited argument over Saturday's controversial statement on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, prompting swift responses on social media.

Trump's statement on Saturday didn't specifically condemn the hate groups associated with the protest, and he qualified his remarks by putting blame on "many sides." A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 others were injured when a white nationalist protester plowed his car into a group organizing against the "Unite the Right" rally.

Trump eventually did condemn white nationalists and neo-Nazis on Monday, but returned to the same talking points during Tuesday's argumentative question-and-answer segment with the press.

"I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame object on both sides," Trump said on his decision to not specifically refer to white supremacy on Saturday.

"What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, at the 'alt-right?'" Trump said during Tuesday's press conference. "Do they have any assemblage of guilt? What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do."

Reaction on both sides came quickly via social media, with the white nationalists who organized Saturday's rally supporting the president.

Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term "alt-right," tweeted the president’s statement was “fair and down to earth.” Spencer also critiqued the police, saying, “Charlottesville could have been peaceful, if police did its job.”

David Duke, former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and an attendee at Saturday's protests, thanked Trump for his “honesty and courage to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists.”

However, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and political pundits expressed their discontent at the president backtracking on his handling of the violent, racially charged episode.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, slammed Trump’s speech, saying "as a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, reposted his statement from Monday, writing, “seems like a good time to re-up these remarks" that America had "some soul-searching to do" in the wake of "this weekend's violence."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., followed in Hatch’s footsteps, writing that it was a “good time” to bring back his statement from Aug. 12, where he called on Trump to describe “the events in Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists.”

Rubio took it a step further with a six-tweet thread to detail why the organizers of the rally were 100 percent to blame. Rubio wrote the protest organizers believe in "evil ideology which argues certain people are inferior because of race," and that the white supremacist groups will see being assigned "only 50% of blame" as a win.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump’s remarks “clearly show” he is seeking to divide the country.

“By saying he is not taking sides, Donald Trump clearly is. When David Duke and white supremacists cheer your remarks, you’re doing it very very wrong,” Schumer said in a statement.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who declared a state of emergency on Saturday, reminded Trump in a statement that “neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and white supremacists came to Charlottesville heavily armed, spewing hatred and looking for a fight.”

“This was not ‘both sides’.... We need real leadership, starting with our President. Leaders from every corner of this nation and every partisan point of view have denounced these people and their acts in plain terms without hesitation or dissembling. ... The American people need the same from their President and we need it now,” McAuliffe added.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., called out the president’s language referring to the different kinds of groups involved, tweeting, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there are not 'many sides' to this.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., broke his silence, warning there can be “no moral ambiguity.”

“We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for,” Ryan added in his tweet.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., tweeted, “Trump just repeated his previous views of the moral equivalence of white supremacists and civil rights protesters in #Charlottesville,” adding, “@realDonaldTrump, there is no moral equivalence between those who fight for civil rights and white supremacists.”

He continued with a third tweet referencing the weekend protests against a statue of the Confederate leader Robert E. Lee, writing, “Washington and Jefferson fought to create this country. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson fought to preserve slavery. Not the same!”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement following the president's remarks, criticizing the speech in a larger racial context.

“From the beginning, President Trump has sheltered and encouraged the forces of bigotry and discrimination.We have seen the manifestation of this behavior in the hiring of White House staff members, but also in the unmistakable conduct of his Administration toward immigrants, Muslims, and communities of color,” Pelosi said.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez asked Americans to “not lose hope,” “not give in to fear,” and “not be intimidated by this sad excuse for a president” in his statement.

“We stand with you and we will never back down,” Perez said.

Former Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., kept his comments simple, writing, “This President is an embarrassment.”

More officeholders within the president’s own party expressed their discontent, with Rep. Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., writing, "Blaming "both sides" for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no.”

Republican pollster Kristen Soltis-Anderson appeared unfazed by the situation, however, tweeting, “this is who he is. You don't get to be surprised anymore.”

Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director under President Barack Obama, lambasted the entire GOP in his tweet: “This is on you, you did this, and only you can do something about this.”

The NAACP called Tuesday’s press conference “alarming” and “despicable,” adding “some things are left better unsaid."

The Anti-Defamation League said the comparisons Trump made between white supremacists and the counter-protesters in the rally were "beyond the pale."

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Tuesday
Aug152017

Trump: 'We'll see what happens' with Steve Bannon

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump deflected questions on Tuesday about the status of his chief strategist Steve Bannon, saying the former chair of Breitbart News, who has been accused of being a white nationalist, is a "good man."

When asked by reporters at Trump Tower about Bannon's future in his administration, Trump responded, "We'll see what happens."

"I like him. He is a good man and he is not a racist, I can tell you that," he added.

Breitbart News has developed a reputation in recent years for its conservative leanings and cultivation of the so-called "alt-right."

On Monday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Bannon's firing in a statement.

"If the president is sincere about rejecting white supremacists, he should remove all doubt by firing Steve Bannon and the other alt-right white supremacist sympathizers in the White House," she said.

Bannon has denied that race plays a role in his self-described "nationalism."

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Tuesday
Aug152017

Trump ad-libbed 'many sides' remark in response to Charlottesville violence

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump went off script and used his own words Saturday when he made that controversial decision to condemn "many sides" of the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, rather than to single out white supremacists, two White House officials told ABC News.

"Those were his own words," one senior White House official said of the "on many sides" comment, explicitly adding that those three words "were not" in his prepared remarks.

This is the second time in two weeks that impromptu words from the president on matters of national importance caused significant headaches for the White House. Last Tuesday, the president used bellicose language not approved by his national security team to address the situation in North Korea, telling reporters that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be met with "fire and fury" if he continued to make threats against the United States. That comment sent allies around the world into a mild panic, wondering if Trump was truly considering pre-emptive military action against North Korea.

Trump's penchant for improvisation on hugely sensitive topics brings into question the ability of his new chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, to bring the White House into order.

Trump's words and his failure to call out specific hate groups Saturday drew such broad backlash that he was forced Monday to issue a clarifying statement, in which he said "racism is evil" and condemned groups by name, including the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

But in his initial televised response to the violence over the weekend, Trump struck a different tone.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," Trump said Saturday from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. Looking directly at the camera, he repeated, "On many sides."

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Tuesday
Aug152017

Trump retweets, then deletes, image of a cartoon train hitting CNN figure

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After engaging in a contentious exchange Monday with a television reporter at the White House, President Donald Trump retweeted an animated image from his Twitter account Tuesday morning that showed a train with his name on the side hitting a person covered by the logo of cable news network CNN.

“Fake news can’t stop the Trump train,” the image’s caption reads.

The president has since deleted the tweet and the White House told ABC News the president had inadvertently retweeted the image.


A CNN reporter on Monday asked the president why he was not holding a news conference as he had teased last Friday.

Trump fired back that he had already held a news conference by issuing a statement on a presidential memorandum he signed. He did not, however, take questions from the press.

“You're fake news,” Trump told the CNN reporter.

Just last month, the president shared from his personal Twitter account an edited WWE video that showed Trump body-slamming a person with the CNN logo superimposed over his head.

The timing of Trump’s tweet comes after he called for unity, love and respect following the deadly Charlottesville protests over the weekend. A woman was killed after being struck by a car that drove into a crowd of pedestrians in the Virginia city.

Almost seven months into his presidency, Trump's public denunciations of "fake news" -- a phrase he utilized to push back against damaging reports during his presidential campaign -- have continued in earnest.

In February, he notably tweeted that a number of television networks and The New York Times were "the enemy of the American People!" (Disclosure: ABC News was one of the networks cited by Trump.)

The president’s re-election campaign announced a new ad on Sunday that it said exposes the president’s “enemies.” The ad featured a number of cable and network news anchors and reporters.

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Tuesday
Aug152017

Trump retweets alt-right activist who pushed 'Pizzagate' conspiracy

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Still dealing with backlash over his initial response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Virginia over the weekend, President Donald Trump on Monday retweeted an alt-right activist who pushed bogus stories about "Pizzagate" and false theories that connected the Democratic National Committee to the death of one of its staffers.

Trump retweeted to his nearly 36 million followers a post by Jack Posobiec on Monday night that linked to a news article about violence in Chicago.

“Meanwhile: 39 shootings in Chicago this weekend, 9 deaths. No national media outrage. Why is that?” Posobiec tweeted.

The tweet was one of several from the president on Monday that appeared to highlight his frustration over the media's coverage of him.

Posobiec, a staunch Trump supporter, livestreamed his reaction to the retweet news on Twitter and later thanked the president in a separate Twitter post.

Posobiec is a well-known alt-right voice who has pushed the false “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which accused Hillary Clinton loyalists of running a child sex-trafficking operation out of a Washington, D.C. pizza shop.

Just days after Trump was elected president, Posobiec livestreamed a visit to the pizza shop at the center of the theory to investigate, but was removed by police for videotaping a child’s birthday party there.

A man fired multiple shots into that same pizza shop about a month later, claiming he had driven from North Carolina to “investigate” the false claims of an alleged child sex ring at the shop. Edgar Maddison Welch was sentenced in June to four years in prison after pleading guilty to firearm and assault offenses in March.

Posobiec has also pushed false claims that the Democratic National Committee was responsible for the death of former staffer Seth Rich. A story published by Fox News in May that fueled the rumors surrounding Rich's death was later retracted and has now become the subject of a lawsuit.

The retweet from Trump came just hours after the president made a second statement about the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday after he was criticized over the vagueness of his initial response.

Trump on Saturday said both sides were to blame for the violence that occurred at the rally, which left one dead and 19 injured after a car-ramming attack. Police arrested James Alex Fields, 20, and charged him with second-degree murder in the incident.

Trump later denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as “criminals and thugs” on Monday amid growing pressure from political leaders on both the right and left.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug152017

What to know about Utah's special election primary

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Republican voters will head to the polls in Utah’s 3rd congressional district Tuesday to determine the nominee to succeed Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who resigned his seat on June 30. Democrats had already nominated physician Kathie Allen at their party convention in June.

The heavily conservative district, which Chaffetz represented from 2008 until this year, is widely expected to remain in Republican hands, but voters across Utah have previously registered their hesitations about President Donald Trump, who failed to receive a majority of the vote in the district in 2016, and earlier lost the statewide caucus to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, by a wide margin.

Why is the seat vacant?

Chaffetz announced in May in a letter to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert that he would be resigning his seat, saying, “it has been a tremendous honor and privilege to serve the people of Utah as a member of Congress.”

The former Chairman of the House Oversight Committee gained political visibility after it pursued aggressive investigations of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Internal Revenue Service and former Attorney General Eric Holder. Chaffetz is now a political commentator for Fox News.

Timeline for the election:

June 17: At their state party convention, Democrats nominated physician Kathie Allen, while Republicans nominated former State Rep. Chris Herrod. Two other Republicans – businessman Tanner Ainge and Provo Mayor John Curtis submitted enough signatures to qualify for the primary ballot.

August 15: The GOP primary election to decide on a nominee for special election took place.

November 7: The special election to succeed Chaffetz, with the winner serving out the remainder of the term until 2018, took place.

Who’s running?

Tanner Ainge: Ainge, 33, is a businessman and the son of Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge. He was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin earlier this month, but is considered to be a political newcomer.

Ainge also has the support of a Super PAC called Conservative Utah, which is primarily funded by his father. Ainge’s father denies any coordination between the group and the campaign.

Chris Herrod: With endorsements from U.S. Sens. Cruz and Rand Paul, R-Ky., Herrod has staked out ground as the most conservative of the group. In late July, Cruz traveled to Utah to express his support for Herrod.

He tweeted, “Rallying for Chris Herrod in Utah today. He's a strong conservative, and I'm confident he'll be a courageous conservative in Congress!”

In a press release by Herrod’s campaign in July, Paul endorsed the returning political hopeful, stating, "As a state representative and leader in his community, Chris has proven that he understands the principles of liberty and has shown that he is willing to fight for them.”

 Harrod previously served Utah House of Representatives from 2007 to 2012. He volunteered as the Utah State Director for Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016, and identifies as a “conservative who isn’t afraid to buck the system,” as his official campaign page reads. Harrod has the backing of conservative groups like FreedomWorks and Club for Growth, and conservative pundit Glenn Beck.

John Curtis: Curtis, the mayor of Provo, has led the district's largest city since 2010, and has the endorsements of sitting Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, and the state’s largest newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune.

Despite that support, Curtis has faced questions about his conservative credentials. Curtis once headed the a county Democratic party committee, and was a registered Democrat until 2006, when he switched his registration to Republican.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug152017

Voters head to the polls in Alabama's special election primary

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Voters are set to head to the polls in Alabama for primaries in the race for a U.S. Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was confirmed as attorney general.

Following Sessions' confirmation to Trump’s cabinet, then-Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley appointed the state's attorney general, Luther Strange, to temporarily fill Sessions’ Senate seat until a special election. Strange has been representing the people of Alabama in the Senate since February. Prior to that, Sessions had held the seat since 1997.

Bentley subsequently resigned in April after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to campaign finance law. Following his resignation, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey took over the governorship and scheduled the special election to replace Sessions.

While the president's approval rating stands at just 34 percent, according to the most recent Gallup data, the Alabama race has pitted Republican against Republican to see who can best prove their allegiance to Trump.

Trump unexpectedly endorsed Strange last week, sending out a tweet praising his work in the Senate thus far.


The other two candidates, U.S. Representative Mo Brooks and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, have also tried to tie themselves closely to Trump, with Brooks promising to filibuster any government funding bill in the Senate that does not include money to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a key promise of Trump during the presidential campaign.

Brooks called Trump's endorsement of Strange "baffling" in a statement.

Strange has the backing of the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The PAC, which has spent $3.5 million as of late July on the race, according to Politico, has also attacked Brooks for comments he made criticizing Trump during the 2016 presidential primaries. Brooks was an early supporter of Senator Ted Cruz before pledging his support to Trump.

Moore has raised eyebrows in the state for his stances and legal judgments from Alabama’s Supreme Court bench. He previously served as the chief justice for the Alabama Supreme Court, but was suspended in November 2003 for refusing federal court orders to take down a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building.

Moore was endorsed by conservative actor Chuck Norris, who said of the candidate, “Judge Roy Moore is the real deal. The Washington establishment knows they won’t be able to count on him, but Alabama voters can...That’s why the Washington establishment is spending millions trying to defeat Judge Moore.”

Alabama voters have not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992. Among the seven Democrats running in the primary, contenders include Doug Jones, who served as U.S. district attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and former naval officer Robert Kennedy Jr., who shares no affiliation with the famous presidential family.

A runoff election is scheduled for September 26 in the event that in either primary one candidate does not receive 50 percent of the vote or more. The special election is then scheduled for December 12, with the winner of that election going on to serve out the remainder of Sessions' term until January 2021.

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