White House says Trump ‘stands by’ Strange endorsement

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, right, the president pro tempore of the Senate, administers the oath to new Alabama Republican Sen. Luther Strange, joined by his wife, Melissa, during a re-enactment ceremony at the Capitol in Washington. Strange, appointed last year by the state's former governor and backed by Republican establishment, faces multiple challengers including Congressman Mo Brooks and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore in a GOP primary. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Tuesday reaffirmed President Donald Trump’s support for Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, who is in a tough runoff to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat.

“The president has endorsed Luther Strange and he continues to stand by that endorsement,” said White House legislative director Marc Short in response to a question during a media breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

Strange is backed by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but the president has not yet campaigned in person for Strange ahead of the tightly-contested Sept. 26 runoff against Roy Moore, the state’s former chief justice.

Moore led Strange by 25,000 votes in the first round of balloting and has a loyal following among the state’s evangelical voters. The winner of the Republican runoff will face Democrat Doug Jones in December.

Moore has been endorsed by conservatives such as Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

A judicial ethics panel removed Moore from office in 2003 for defying a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. After he was re-elected the panel suspended him in 2016, ruling that Moore had urged probate judges to defy federal court rulings and refuse marriage licenses to gay couples.

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