Trump’s U.S. Senate Pick Advances in Alabama Republican Race

  • Luther Strange to face runoff with another GOP Candidate
  • Popularity of Trump, McConnell tested among Republican voters

Luther Strange, the U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama backed by President Donald Trump, advanced to a run-off election for the Republican nomination to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Strange, appointed to fill the post temporarily, will compete against the other top vote winner, Roy Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice known for his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments statue from the court.

Luther Strange

Photographer: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Photo

Strange had 32 percent of the vote and Moore had 40 percent, with 93 percent of the ballots counted, according to New York Times. They defeated seven other candidates but neither won enough votes to advance directly to the general election. The victor in the September 26 runoff likely will prevail in the general election in the solidly Republican state.

The Alabama contest is testing the popularity of Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who also endorsed Strange, among Republicans.

Presidential Allies

Roy Moore

Photographer: Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Strange, 64, and his opponents sought to paint themselves as strong allies of the president, who won Alabama in the 2016 election with 62 percent of the vote. Trump tweeted an endorsement of Strange on Monday, praising him for being “strong on Border & Wall, the military, tax cuts & law enforcement” and followed up with several more messages on Twitter.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super-political action committee aligned with McConnell, spent more than $2.9 million for Strange and against Moore and another candidate, Congressman Mo Brooks. Moore called McConnell of Kentucky the “swamp king” in an ad, and Brooks said McConnell should resign after the Senate failed to repeal Obamacare last month.

Strange’s bid to keep his seat has been hurt by his ties to Alabama’s former governor, Robert Bentley, who appointed Strange to fill the position temporarily. Bentley, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor campaign finance law violations, resigned in April after facing the possibility of impeachment over allegations he used state resources to cover up an extramarital affair with an aide.

Strange previously served as the state’s attorney general and his office was investigating Bentley when he was appointed to the Senate seat.

Strange’s opponents sought to play up his ties to the GOP establishment. Both Moore and Brooks portrayed Strange as McConnell’s handpicked candidate. Brooks stepped up his efforts after the president criticized McConnell for failing to win enough votes to repeal Obamacare.

‘You’re Fired’

“Mr. President, isn’t it time we tell McConnell and Strange, ‘You’re fired?’” Brooks said in a television ad released last week.

Moore, 70, was first elected to serve as Alabama’s chief justice in 2000, before being ousted in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments statue from the Alabama Supreme Court. After two unsuccessful gubernatorial runs in 2006 and 2010, Moore was again elected to serve as chief justice in 2012. He was suspended from the court in 2016 for telling state judges to disregard the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Moore touted his tenure as chief justice, running a campaign ad that highlighted his 2003 removal from the court.

“The same Washington insiders who don’t like President Trump are trying to stop our campaign,” Moore says in a recent TV ad. “They’re afraid I’m going to take our Alabama values to Washington.”

Democrats also held their primary Tuesday night. Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney appointed by Bill Clinton, led the pack of seven Democrats by capturing more than 60 percent of the ballots cast.

Jones and the Republican nominee will face off in a December 12 special election where the Republican will be heavily favored.

In Utah’s 3rd District, Provo Mayor John Curtis won the Republican primary to fill the seat formerly held by Jason Chaffetz, who resigned in June. Curtis will face Democrat Kathie Allen in a Nov. 7 special election.

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