Moore defeats Strange in U.S. Senate runoff

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, September 27, 2017

After a month of hard campaigning between Roy Moore and Luther Strange, Moore emerged victorious Tuesday night in the Republican runoff for U.S. Senate.

In an upset likely to rock the GOP establishment – Strange was backed by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – Moore clinched victory over Sen. Luther Strange to take the GOP nomination for the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Numbers are not yet official, but the latest results show Moore taking 58 percent of the vote compared to Strange’s 42 percent.

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With all but provisional votes counted in Pike County, Moore dominated the race, gaining 67 percent of the vote. Strange only garnered 33 percent of the vote.

Moore’s dominance in Pike County is on track with his primary showing in August, in which he outpaced Strange 54 percent to 24 percent.

Local Republican leaders criticized Strange after a debate between the two candidates Thursday for relying too heavily on his presidential endorsement.

“I think the people of Alabama want more answers to things that concern them about (Strange) and about what plans and goals he had,” said Donna Hron, president of the Pike County Republican Party. “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.”

Analysts said a low turnout would benefit Moore, and although numbers haven’t yet been released for the state, turnout was low in Pike County.

But Probate Judge Wes Allen said it was a bit better than expected.

“It was a little more than I initially thought it would be at 13 percent,” Allen said. “That’s better than some predicted.”

The turnout dropped just 3 percent from the primaries despite Democrat voters not participating in the runoff.

Allen said the election ran smoothly.

“I thank all of our poll workers, our circuit clerk, the sheriff and all of my staff for all their hard work today,” Allen said.

Throughout the campaign, Moore argued the election was an opportunity to send a message to the “elite Washington establishment” that he said was trying to influence the race. The Senate Leadership Fund, a group with ties to McConnell, had spent an estimated $9 million trying to secure the nomination for Strange.

Senate Leadership Fund President and CEO Steven Law said Tuesday that Moore won the nomination “fair and square” and the group will now back him.

Law says Moore “has our support, as it is vital that we keep this seat in Republican hands.”

Mour will face off against Democrat Doug Jones in the general election on Tuesday, December 12.

The crowd at Moore’s watching party broke into loud applause as media outlets called the race. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon took the stage to introduce Moore as supporters waving flags cheered Tuesday night.

Moore was twice elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and twice removed from those duties. In 2003, he was removed from office for disobeying a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse lobby. Last year, he was permanently suspended after a disciplinary panel ruled he had urged probate judges to defy federal court decisions on gay marriage and deny wedding licenses to same-sex couples.

Strange told his supporters that “we wish (Moore) well going forward.” But he quickly shifted to his own bewilderment at the race he just finished.

“We’re dealing with a political environment that I’ve never had any experience with,” he said.

Strange also thanked Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for backing him. Trump, Strange said, may “be criticized” for coming to Alabama on his behalf. “Sometimes it’s just about friendship … a common goal to make the country better,” Strange said.

Trump endorsed Strange in the race and tweeted support for him on multiple occasions. As polls showed Strange in danger of losing, Trump visited Alabama to campaign at a rally attended by more than 7,000 people.

Moore, propelled by evangelical voters, consolidated support from a number of anti-establishment forces, including the pro-Trump Great America Alliance and Bannon. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in a rally for Moore last week, said the judge was a better match for Trump’s “movement.”

Trump said at the Alabama rally that he would campaign for Moore in the general election if he secured the nomination but he believed Moore would have a tougher time against the Democrat in the race.

Moore led Strange by about 25,000 votes in the crowded August primary, which went to a runoff between the two because neither topped 50 percent in the voting.

Strange, the state’s former attorney general, was appointed to Sessions’ seat in February by then-Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned two months later as lawmakers opened impeachment hearings against him. Throughout the Senate race, Strange had been dogged by criticisms of accepting the appointment from a scandal-battered governor when his office was in charge of corruption investigations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.