Thursday 23 November 2017

Moore wins Republican nod for Senate seat after defeating Trump-backed candidate

Former Alabama Chief Justice and US Senate candidate Roy Moore, greets supporter Patricia Jones, right, before his election party (AP)
Former Alabama Chief Justice and US Senate candidate Roy Moore, greets supporter Patricia Jones, right, before his election party (AP)

Firebrand Roy Moore has won the Alabama Republican primary runoff for US Senate, defeating an appointed incumbent backed by President Donald Trump.

In an upset likely to rock the Republican establishment, Mr Moore clinched victory over Senator Luther Strange to take the GOP nomination for the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mr Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones in a December 12 election.

Throughout the campaign, Mr 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 leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell, had spent an estimated nine million US dollars trying to secure the nomination for Mr Strange.

Mr 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.

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

Mr Moore, propelled by evangelical voters, consolidated support from a number of anti-establishment forces, including the pro-Trump Great America Alliance and former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who spoke at a rally on Monday.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, in a rally for Mr Moore last week, said the judge was a better match for Mr Trump's "movement."

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

Mr Moore led his opponent 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.

Mr Strange, the state's former attorney general, was appointed to Mr Sessions' seat in February by then-Governor Robert Bentley, who resigned two months later as politicians opened impeachment hearings against him.

T hroughout the Senate race, Mr Strange had been dogged by criticisms of accepting the appointment from a scandal-battered governor when his office was in charge of corruption investigations.

On the outskirts of Montgomery, 76-year-old Air Force retiree John Lauer said Mr Trump's endorsement swayed him to vote for Mr Strange on Tuesday.

"I voted for Strange. I'm a Trump voter. Either one is going to basically do the Trump agenda, but since Trump came out for Luther, I voted for Luther," said Mr Lauer.

Poll workers in the heavily Republican Birmingham suburbs of Helena and Pelham said voter turnout was steady, with short lines at two places when doors opened on Tuesday.

Merlene Bohannon, a widow with three grown children, said she had planned to vote for Mr Strange until seeing Mr Bannon stump for Mr Moore on Fox News on Monday night.

"Steve Bannon and God spoke to me, and this morning when I went in I voted for Moore," said Ms Bohannon, 74.

Mr Bannon told the crowd that Alabama can show the world "that this populist, nationalist, conservative movement is on the rise".

AP

Press Association

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