WASHINGTON – The Alabama Republican U.S. Senate primary is headed for a runoff, NBC News projected early Wednesday morning.
Tuesday's primary contest pitted former Alabama senator and Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions against Rep. Bradley Byrne and political newcomer Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach.
Sessions and Tuberville will face each other in a runoff later this month. They finished as the top two candidates, and neither reached 50%. With 99% of the vote tallied by Wednesday morning, Tuberville had 33.4% and Sessions had 31.6%. Byrne ended up in third with 25.2%.
Disgraced former judge Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls decades ago, netted 6.9%. Moore, who narrowly lost to Democrat Doug Jones in a 2017 special Senate election, has denied wrongdoing.
"I will fight for Alabama every day, and we will win the Republican nomination on March 31," Sessions told supporters, according to NBC News.
The Republicans were all competing for the chance to run against Jones, who is widely considered the most endangered senator up for reelection.
The race still has the potential to be one of the most contentious primaries in the country, as the candidates are trying to run as close to Trump — who enjoys a 60% approval rating in Alabama — as they can.
The campaign is also a highly risky venture for Sessions, who fell out of favor with Trump after he recused himself from Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Sessions stepped down in 2018, and Trump has not endorsed his Senate bid.
On Wednesday morning, Trump made it clear he was still not happy with Sessions. He retweeted an article about the runoff and wrote: "This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn't have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt."
Prior to joining the Trump administration, Sessions represented Alabama in Congress for three decades, first in the House and then the Senate. For Sessions, ending his political career with a loss in a primary runoff would surely tarnish his legacy.