Local Republicans react to Strange-Moore debate

Published 3:00 am Saturday, September 23, 2017

Just five days before they face off in the Republican runoff, Roy Moore and Luther Strange traded words on the debate stage in Montgomery.

Several Pike County Republican leaders travelled up to Montgomery to witness the invitation-only event and weigh what the candidates had to say.

“This was the first time I’ve ever been to a debate like that,” said Donna Horn, president of the Pike County Republican Party. “I really enjoyed it­– it was an experience. I would have liked it a little better though if they had actually taken questions.”

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Moore and Strange set up the debate as a “Lincoln-Douglas style debate” which meant there was no moderator and were no questions from the press.

Instead, each candidate took five minutes to provide opening statements and then continued in five-minute response segments.

Horn said she thought Strange failed to utilize that time to talk about the issues.

“I was very disappointed last night because Luther Strange did not address any issues,” Horn said. “I think the people of Alabama want more answers to things that concern them about him and about what plans and goals he had. Instead, he simply kept repeating that he was the president’s choice. We elected Donald Trump president, but not to tell us who to vote for. Alabamians are smart enough to vote their own convictions.”

Shirley Reddoch, president of the Pike County Republican Women, shared Horn’s sentiments about the debate.

“Roy Moore asked a lot of questions from Luther Strange and the only thing Luther could come back with is that he had the support of President Trump and Vice President Pence– he never actually responded to the things Roy Moore asked of him,” Reddoch said. “Alabamians don’t care who supports Moore or who supports Strange– we are the ones who vote. I voted for Trump– I went and walked around Sarasota (Florida) for a week campaigning for Trump, but not to be told who to vote for. It’s disgusting.”

While Reddoch doesn’t believe that endorsements will make a difference in the race, that didn’t stop some big-name Republicans from coming to Alabama to try to sway votes.

President Donald Trump spoke in Huntsville Friday to try to rally support for Strange in the city while Sarah Palin came to Montgomery Thursday to rally for Moore.

“I think Alabamians are going to vote their convictions,” Reddoch said. “I think voters have already decided who they’re going to vote for.”

Both Horn and Reddoch praised Moore for his debate performance, even if it wasn’t as polished as Strange’s.

“It was a different role for him,” Horn said. “You can tell he’s not as polished a politician as some of them, but I thought he did well and brought up some strong points for himself and against his opponent.”

“Personally, I thought he did great,” Reddoch said. “While I was sitting there watching the debate, I had it up on Facebook and Moore was getting thumbs ups and heart signs while Strange was getting frowns. Moore was talking about the issues and all Strange could talk about was the president and vice president.”

While Horn and reddoch watched from the stands, Troy University Associate Provost Hal Fulmer was on stage keeping time between the two big personalities.

“My role was to simply keep the debate moving along by being a good timekeeper,” Fulmer said. “I didn’t have any issues with either candidate honoring any of the ground rules. They were real professionals

“I thought it went well. It was a great opportunity for everyone. In some ways, it’s so much a part of who we are as people– the idea of political debate goes back to before we were a country. It’s participation in a part of a tradition that is really a part of who we are as a people.”

The polls will open on Tuesday, September 26 for Alabamians to make their choice between the two candidates. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Photo ID is required.