Alabama voters deliver a shock to GOP establishment in Senate primary race

Photo courtesy of thestar.com.

By Katherine Coble || News Editor

The Republican establishment was dealt a blow in Alabama last Tuesday evening after Senator Luther Strange lost his bid to represent the state of Alabama in a special runoff election to former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore.

Strange, 64, was appointed to the position after Jeff Sessions became the U.S. Attorney General within the Donald Trump administration. He received millions of dollars in support from GOP figures like Mitch McConnell and was officially endorsed by President Trump. His aggressive advertising program and involvement of Donald Trump in his campaign were not enough to overpower Moore’s rural, evangelical base.

Moore has long been a controversial figure in Alabama. He has been removed from his position in the Alabama Supreme Court twice, first in 2003 after refusing to remove a statue with the Ten Commandments from the courthouse. He was elected to the position again in 2013 but was suspended and eventually resigned in 2016 for encouraging probate judges to continue enforcing Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban after it was ruled to be unconstitutional. Moore was a leading voice in the “birther” movement regarding Barack Obama and is known for his staunch anti-gay and anti-Muslim beliefs.

Moore’s victory was not unsurprising. He had polled well going into election night and was able to mobilize his far-right Christian base despite controversies over racially insensitive remarks given on the campaign and his storied past as former chief justice. There is evidence the Strange campaign did not work hard enough to pivot to moderate voters who may feel weary about Moore representing their state on a national scale. Some questioned the value of Trump’s support after the campaign speech he gave for Strange last an hour and a half, went off-topic, and even included the president questioning whether it was wise for him to be there. His advisors had warned against it, as lending support to one side of a contested primary can have unintended consequences.

Still, the loss was perceived by many to be a blow to the GOP establishment and is the first case since 2010 of an incumbent with White House support losing their election. Following Strange’s defeat, Donald Trump deleted his older tweets supporting the candidate and posted a new one saying: “Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!” Moore also received congratulations from his avid support and Trump’s former chief of staff Steve Bannon, who said in a speech during Moore’s victory event that the election results would contribute to a populist revolution.

Roy will be running against the Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama who came to national prominence during the Clinton administration for prosecuting and convincing two Klu Klux Klan members for their involvement in the 1963 church bombing that resulted in the deaths of four young girls in Birmingham, Alabama. According to AL.com, Jones trailed Moore by six points in the polls on Friday.

Sophomore Katherine Coble is the news editor. Her email is kcoble@fandm.edu.

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