iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Incumbent U.S. Senator Luther Strange and former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore have advanced to a runoff election in Alabama’s GOP primary to replace the seat vacated by now Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sources projected.
On the Democratic side, it is projected that former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones — best known for leading the prosecution of two Klansmen for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church -– won the nomination outright, avoiding a runoff.
The race on the GOP side was hotly contested between Strange, Moore and U.S. Representative Mo Brooks, with strong disagreements about which candidate would best be able to advance President Trump’s agenda in the senate.
President Trump unexpectedly backed Strange, an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, endorsing him in a tweet last week.
Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
Strange was appointed to the seat in February by former Governor Robert Bentley. Strange, then the state Attorney General, was investigating Bentley for allegedly using state money to cover up a sex scandal. The move to appoint Strange sparked criticism from many in the state. Bentley resigned from the governorship in April.
Moore is well-known in the state, and has raised eyebrows for his stances and legal judgments from Alabama’s Supreme Court. He previously served as the state’s chief justice but was suspended in November 2003 and then removed from the bench for refusing federal court orders to take down a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building. In 2012 he won election to the position again and last September was suspended once more, for the rest of his term, in part for directing the state’s probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He resigned in April to run for the Senate.
Moore was endorsed by conservative actor Chuck Norris, who said, “Judge Roy Moore is the real deal. The Washington establishment knows they won’t be able to count on him, but Alabama voters can … That’s why the Washington establishment is spending millions trying to defeat Judge Moore.”
Moore celebrated the news earlier tonight in a tweet.
WE’RE ON TO THE RUNOFF!
— Judge Roy Moore (@MooreSenate) August 16, 2017
Strange has the backing of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McConnell.
The PAC, which has spent $3.5 million on the race as of late July, according to Politico, largely focused their attacks on Brooks for comments he made criticizing Trump during the 2016 presidential primaries. Brooks was an early supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz before pledging his support to Trump.
If Moore were to beat Strange in the runoff election, it would be a major blow both Trump and McConnell, and a sign that anti-establishment candidates may have a better chance to win GOP nominations in the coming 2018 midterm elections.
The runoff election is scheduled for September 26, and the general election will be held on December 12.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.