Anti-gay former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will face Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in a GOP primary runoff for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat in Alabama, setting up what’s likely to be a bloody contest.
Moore led the field with 41 percent of the GOP primary vote with more than 60 percent of precincts counted, with Strange at 32 percent and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) at 20 percent. The Associated Press has called the race.
Strange has received some huge outside help. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) allies spent millions to boost him and attack Brooks with ads highlighting Brooks’ earlier criticism of President Trump. The president’s own late endorsement of Strange may have played a key role in securing him a slot in the next round of voting.
Moore is a nationally known figure who has been railing against gays and Muslims for decades and has twice lost his job for refusing to follow higher court orders over religious issues.
In 2003, he was removed from Alabama’s Supreme Court after installing, then refusing to remove, a two-and-a-half-ton monument to the Ten Commandments outside his courthouse.
He won back his state Supreme Court seat in 2012 over a recently appointed judge after a pair of disappointing runs for governor, only to be suspended from the court once again after ordering state judges to disobey the U.S. Supreme Court and refuse to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Moore has doubled down on that rhetoric in this campaign: Earlier on Tuesday he declared that “There are communities under Sharia law right now in our country. Up in Illinois.”
Strange is the favorite of the GOP establishment and Alabama’s business community — whose support may hurt more than help in this race.
The senator was appointed to the seat by disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley (R) shortly before he was forced to resign from office. Strange, as state attorney general, had been in charge of the investigation into Bentley’s sex scandal before his appointment. His support from McConnell is also a double-edged sword, as the Kentucky Republican is far from popular with the base.
But Trump remains beloved by many Alabama Republicans, and could be a huge asset in the race — if he starts doing more than tweeting his support of Strange. The president cut a last-minute robocall to back his preferred candidate, and if he does more — like TV ads or an in-state visit — he could potentially help Strange overcome his disadvantage and catch Moore.
On the Democratic side, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones cruised to the nomination. Jones was the only real candidate in the race, with endorsements from former Vice President Joe Biden, local leaders and civil rights icon and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). But a previously unknown guy named Robert Kennedy, Jr. (not the one you’re thinking of) had jumped into the race as well. Early polls actually showed him ahead in the race, but they proved wildly off the mark, as Jones had almost two-thirds of the Democratic vote with one third of precincts counted.
Democrats are hopeful that they have an outside shot at the seat in ruby red Alabama if Moore wins the nomination.