TROY, Ala. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Luther Strange made his case to state Republican party leaders on Saturday, urging them to vote for him in a GOP runoff next month because of his “conservative accomplishments” and the endorsement of President Donald Trump.
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who faces Strange in the runoff, lashed out at Strange’s financial backing from the GOP establishment and said the “Washington crowd” was trying to buy the Senate seat from Alabama.
Sharing a stage for the first time since securing their spots in the runoff, Moore and Strange spoke to more than 400 members of the GOP executive committee on the campus of Troy University. The brief speeches highlighted style differences between the two Republicans vying for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat. It also was a prelude to what is expected to be a bitter runoff between the two men who sprang from different factions within the state GOP.
“All of America is watching what happens in this campaign,” Moore said, displaying his fire and brimstone style. He hammered Strange for receiving financial backing from a super PAC tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“There’s a Washington crowd trying to buy this election,” Moore said, adding that Trump was not part of that establishment. “They don’t want change in Washington. They want to keep it like it is, and they want to fool the people of Alabama.”
Moore, who was twice stripped of his duties as chief justice said the nation must return to God. Moore left the bench for defying a court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument and for telling probate judges that they remained bound to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
Strange, who was appointed in February to fill Sessions’ seat, touted his backing from Trump, who tweeted an endorsement and recorded a telephone message on his behalf on the eve of the primary.
“I have a personal relationship with the president. He cares very much about Alabama. I couldn’t be more proud to have his unconditional endorsement. Why is that important? Because we in this room care about his agenda. It’s going to make America great again,” Strange said.
Strange also touted his record as attorney general, which he said included several lawsuits against the Obama administration and putting together a tough public corruption unit.
“My campaign will be about conservative accomplishments, taking on the special interests, working with President Trump to get it done,” Strange said.
Moore and Strange will face off in a Sept. 26 runoff after emerging as the top two vote-getters in the August primary. Moore led Strange by six percentage points in that first round of voting. The winner will face Democrat Doug Jones in December.
“It’s neck and neck,” said Jerry Ann McCarron when asked how the GOP runoff race was going in her home Baldwin County, a GOP stronghold in south Alabama that is expected to be important to both candidates.
Both Moore and Strange will be vying to pick up the votes of third-place finisher, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, who has not officially endorsed a candidate.
Fourth-place finisher, state Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, on Saturday threw his support to Moore. Pittman said he believed Moore was the best choice in the race. Pittman had about 29,000 votes statewide.
“Roy Moore is a man of outstanding integrity, of commitment, of faith,” Pittman said.