Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to members of the Opelika Rotary Club as they gathered for their weekly meeting on Tuesday and welcomed the Selma native to east Alabama.
The Rotary Club invited Sessions, who is traveling the state as he seeks to win his old U.S. Senate seat in Alabama.
“There’s going to be a lot of Republican votes cast in this area,” Sessions said. “It’s doing so well economically, Auburn University is just this engine of strength financially, but there are a lot of other things out there. A lot of businesses attracting real growth … Auburn and Opelika have become a key part of Alabama."
Born, raised and educated in Alabama, Sessions said he has developed a passion for helping his state. Even though he served as a senator for 20 years, he decided to step into the 2020 Alabama race in an attempt to earn the seat again after a lot of thought and prayer, he said.
“I wanted to get my head right and my heart right,” he said. “This is a service job. It’s not about ego, and it’s not about vindication or some personal agenda. It has to be that you really want to serve, and I believe I can really make a difference.”
Though there are several other Republican candidates who joined the race earlier than Sessions, he said he believed that his knowledge of Washington will help him go far.
“I’ve developed an insight in the last several years of my time there that Washington is not listening to the average American sufficiently, they’re just not,” Session said. “We need to make sure our government is utilizing its capabilities to benefit all Americans, not just those who have been blessed.”
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Before Sessions began his speech, whispers of Rotary Club having one of its largest turnouts were heard. The meeting started business as usual with a prayer, the pledge of allegiance and announcements, but after about 15 minutes, Sessions walked from his spot at the head table to the podium.
Sessions mentioned that he would try to keep the partisanship of his speech to a minimum, focusing more on his interest in protecting the interests of Alabamians.
“Taking care of your state is important,” he said. “I believe the people in Alabama want their senators to reflect their values, to defend their views of this country and what we want to see. I’ve said it for years, I’ll do my best to represent the highest and best views of Alabama.”
Sessions grew up around many prominent political figures, including Governor Kay Ivey, who was a few years ahead of him in high school. Growing up in Alabama is something he regards highly, Sessions said.
“I won’t apologize for growing up in the country. I don’t think it hurt me one bit,” he said. “I think I understand the life of average Americans better.”
During his time as attorney general, Sessions and President Donald Trump disagreed at times, which inevitably ended in Sessions stepping down from his position, but this never dissuaded him from supporting the president, he said.
“I want to help the president. I want him to be successful,” Sessions said. “Some of you were probably worried when I endorsed him, but it was my best judgment that he could win, and I thought if he got elected, he would understand what was going on and do a good job.”
Sessions also discussed his interactions with Senator Bernie Sanders and how they interacted as some of the most senior members of their respective parties and opposing political beliefs.
“We would debate in the budget committees,” he said. “He would make his speech, and I would rebut him, but I respected him. He knew where he came from and didn’t hide it, and I didn’t hide where I came from either.”
After finishing up his speech, Sessions opened the floor for a few questions. Topics ranged from sanctuary cities to education to one's national right to carry. The audience listened closely as Sessions revealed his stance on the issues.
One audience member who is a teacher in Alabama asked Sessions what he would do to help the education system and why she should vote for Sessions. Even though Sessions was only a teacher for a year, he said the job was more difficult than it appeared and added that the management of schools should be up to the states.
“The federal government does not run education. It should not,” Sessions said.
Another audience member asked Sessions if Alabama would become a state that recognizes the national right to carry, which would allow anyone with a gun permit in their state to be able to carry in any state. Sessions said that while he has not completely made up his mind on the issue, he was “open to the idea.”
At the conclusion of the event, Sessions glanced around the room as he expressed how thankful he was to meet with the people of Opelika and that he appreciated the opportunity to serve his country.
“It was a great honor to serve as your senator and was a great honor to serve as your attorney general,” he said.
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