(CNSNews.com) – The minority leader of the Alabama State Senate who worked closely with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for nearly two decades said that he had “not witnessed any type of racial overtone” from President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general during that period.
Alabama State Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) also told CNSNews.com that he is “confident” that if confirmed, Sessions “will do what’s right for the citizens of the United States.”
CNSNews.com asked Ross, who publicly supports Sessions, if the nominee has ever exhibited any signs of racism.
Noting that he could only speak to his own personal experience, Ross replied that he had never seen Sessions exhibit any type of racist behavior.
“It’s been about, close to 20 years I’ve known him,” replied Ross, a former school principal. “I’ve worked with him as director of adult education and higher education in Montgomery, working to secure funding for a two-year college there. I’ve engaged his office working on ed policy, No Child Left Behind….We just worked with each other on a lot of different projects....
"I have not witnessed any type of racial overtone. It’s just been two men working together to try to get things done for their constituency. You know, he represented the State of Alabama, and I represent a segment of the state, and while we don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues, just as men we know how to work together and respect each other’s position to get things done. But that hadn't been my experience.”
CNSNews asked Ross if he had any personal reservations about Sessions becoming attorney general.
“From what I know about him, and we’ve had conversations – you know, because what anybody would want to expect in a person who holds that position is a fundamental fairness and a grasp and understanding of the law and a fair application across the board for all people.
"We’ve talked about things from civil rights to race relations and I think anyone – once you gain a position like that, actually partisanship has to go aside because you represent the United States and all people. So you just have to have a global view of the various issues,” he replied.
“So just through our conversations, I feel confident that [Sessions] will be an attorney general that will look at it from all different perspectives to just do what’s right for the citizens of the United States.”
Although Sessions voted to confirm President Obama’s choice of Eric Holder as attorney general, some Senate Democrats are threatening to block his appointment, pointing to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s rejection of his nomination to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago over allegations that Sessions had made several racially insensitive remarks.
During his confirmation hearings at the time, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) called Sessions “a throwback to a disgraceful era.”
CNSNews asked Ross what he would say to critics who claim that Sessions would reverse decades of progress on civil rights.
“There’s always that fear of change, and when someone new takes a position. I’m sure that there was that position when United States Attorney General Eric Holder was there and Loretta Lynch,” Ross replied.
“But the thing about it is, you have to remember that regardless of the way you look at it, this is something that is obviously going to happen. So what we have to do is just rely on opening the dialogue in that direction and just rely on the individual’s faith and his understanding of people. He has a wealth of knowledge and has a lot of various experiences, and you have to hope that guides him to his understanding overall of what the country needs.”
Trump picked Sessions – a former Justice Department prosecutor and Alabama attorney general who was the first member of the U.S. Senate to endorse him – for the Cabinet-level job as one of his first actions as president-elect.
Sessions, who has been one of the Senate’s most outspoken critics of amnesty for illegal aliens, caught Trump’s eye early in the campaign.
“The president-elect has been unbelievably impressed with Senator Sessions and his phenomenal record as Alabama’s attorney general and U.S. attorney,” according to Trump’s transition team. “It is no wonder the people of Alabama re-elected him without opposition.”
The Fraternal Order of Police – which recently issued a wish list for Trump’s first 100 days in office that includes ending federal aid to sanctuary cities – and the National Sheriffs’ Association have both endorsed Sessions who, as Alabama’s attorney general, oversaw the execution of Ku Klux Klan leader Henry Francis Hays for abducting and killing a black teenager.
“I was in high school when that happened, but I’m aware of some of his dealings with” the KKK,” Ross told CNSNews.
Under Senate rules unilaterally changed by former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2013, Cabinet-level appointments cannot be filibustered and nominees need only get a majority of votes in the Senate to be confirmed.
Senate moderates such as Senators Joe Manchin (D-VW) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have voiced their support of Sessions, making it doubtful that Democrats will be able to muster enough votes to block his confirmation as attorney general.
“Democrats have called every single GOP appointee ‘racist’ for the past 15+ years,” tweeted GOP pollster Frank Luntz. “At this point, it’s crying wolf.”