The decision will keep the balance of the Senate at 52-48 in favor of the Republicans. Strange is a former college basketball player known by the nickname “Big Luther.”
There will be a special election for the seat in 2018. Strange has said he plans to run.
The Birmingham News reported Wednesday that Strange’s potential appointment was “mired in controversy” because “last year, he asked the House committee investigating Bentley’s relationship with former staffer Rebekah Caldwell Mason to suspend its proceedings while his office conducts ‘necessary related work.’”
Bentley’s office said the governor received “hundreds of surveys with recommendations from members of the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee and conducted more than 20 hours of interviews with candidates” before landing on Strange.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), another contender, said in a statement, “It was an honor to be considered by Governor Bentley for the Senate seat. Yet, I have one of the greatest jobs in the world representing the people of Alabama’s 4th Congressional District in Washington, and serving as a member of the House Appropriations Committee.”
Bentley also interviewed Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, currently under suspension for trying to block enforcement of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage, but Moore was not included on the governor’s list of six finalists.
Sessions was confirmed almost exclusively along party lines Wednesday evening after a highly contentious debate over his nomination that spanned weeks.