Tommy Tuberville is headed to overtime against Jeff Sessions in Alabama's Senate race.
The former Auburn football coach, who is seeking to win Alabama's Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, claimed 33 percent of votes in the state's primary election on Tuesday. Jeff Sessions, who held the seat from 1997 until his resignation in 2017 when he became Attorney General, won 32 percent of the vote. Bradley Byrne, the state's third Republican nominee, won 25 percent, failing to advance to the runoff.
Tuberville and Sessions will face off again in the March 31 runoff election. The winner of the Republican nomination will attempt to reclaim the seat held by Democrat Doug Jones in the November general election. Jones was elected to finish the remainder of Sessions' term after a special election in 2017.
Both Tuberville and Sessions have built their respective campaigns on their support of President Donald Trump. The football coach made headlines in January after proclaiming in an ad that "God sent us Donald Trump."
The race in Alabama between Tuberville and Sessions has largely focused on which candidate was more loyal to the president, instead of discussions about state issues.
"We're going to overtime, and I know someone who knows how to win in overtime," Tuberville said following the results of Tuesday's election (via MSN.com). "We’re going to finish what President Trump started when he looked at Jeff Sessions from across the table and said, 'You’re fired.'"
Sessions responded to Tuberville in kind, saying, "Anyone can say they are for the Trump agenda. But talk is cheap. But I have fought on the great issues of our day and won. I have stood alone on facts and principles and won."
Tuberville — a native of Camden, Ark., who also coached Ole Miss, Texas Tech and Cincinnati — has even adopted some of Trump's xenophobic language, especially as it relates to those of Middle Eastern descent.
"They told me we got more Middle Easterners coming across the border than we do Mexicans," Tuberville said in June (via The Washington Post). "This was before the caravans started coming. I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said they're coming all over the Middle East. They're coming across the border, and they ain't leaving. They're coming for a reason. Folks, they're taking over, and if we don't open our eyes, it is going to be over with."
Tuberville doubled down on that sentiment in February when he claimed "Sharia Law" had already made its way into the United States.
"I've been in the cities, folks, you can't drive through a neighborhood. Why? Because terrorism has taken over. Sharia Law has taken over," Tuberville said (via Yellowhammer News). "Folks, there (are) places you can go in this country that you're not wanted. In our country. I mean this is not the Middle East."
That has created a difficult situation for many of his former players, some of whom have said they don't recognize the man who recruited them and turned Auburn into a consistent power in the Southeastern Conference.
According to a Washington Post feature on Tuberville, some of his former players have wondered what the self-described salesman — who in 2012 infamously left Texas Tech recruits at dinner upon finding out he had been hired at Cincinnati — actually believes.
"That doesn't reflect the person that I knew," Devin Aromashodu, a former Auburn receiver from 2002-05, said of Tuberville's comments. "It sounds like two different people."
Former Auburn quarterback Ben Leard, whom Tuberville coached in 1999 and 2000, had this to say: "I've seen this guy in the heat of battle, and we've bled and cried together. It's a question on all of our minds. It's not just the African American minds; it's in all of our heads: 'Did he really mean that? Did Tubs type that?'
"As much as I love the guy, now he's a politician."