Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland are emerging as the leading contenders for President-elect Joe Biden’s attorney general, the Associated Press reports. Jones, who lost reelection last month, and Garland, whose Supreme Court nomination was snubbed by Republicans, appear well positioned ahead of other rivals. Democrats fear that another candidate, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, could face a difficult Senate confirmation because of her role in issues related to the Russia investigation. Biden faces pressure to ensure that Black and Latino leaders are prominently positioned in his administration, and both Jones and Garland are white.
Jones has a long-standing personal relationship with Biden dating back to Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1988. The former U.S. attorney prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan responsible for a 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Al. At a Biden meeting with civil rights activists on Tuesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton encouraged Biden to select a Black attorney general but gave him room to select someone of another race as long as they had a background in civil rights. It’s unclear whether Garland would fit that standard as easily. The new attorney general would inherit a Justice Department that has endured a tumultuous four years and would likely need to focus on not only civil rights issues and an overhaul of national policing policies but also on Democrats’ concerns about politicization of the department in the Trump administration.