Alabama voters elected conservative firebrand Roy Moore as the Republican nominee for a US Senate seat on Tuesday (Sept. 26), dealing a blow to President Donald Trump who had endorsed and campaigned for his rival Luther Strange.
An outspoken evangelical Christian who positioned himself as an anti-establishment candidate, Moore won 55 percent of the vote — a 10-point margin over Strange — despite Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell having spent millions of dollars trying to knock him out of the race.
Moore, who waved a gun on stage during a campaign rally and lost twice his position as the state’s top judge over decisions influenced by his faith, has called to put religion at the centre of public life.
“We have to return the knowledge of God and the Constitution of the United States to the United States Congress,” he said.
Despite campaigning for Strange, Trump congratulated Moore for his victory and urged him to defeat Democrat Doug Jones in the December election to fill a seat that was held by Jeff Sessions before he became U.S. Attorney General in February.
“Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Yet the race exposed rifts between the Republican party’s conservative base and its moneyed establishment — and within Trump’s inner circle.
Moore’s inflammatory style could also bring a new level of turbulence to the Senate, where Republicans have struggled to reach consensus on tax and spending issues and have failed repeatedly to roll back Obamacare.
Congratulations to Roy Moore on his Republican Primary win in Alabama. Luther Strange started way back & ran a good race. Roy, WIN in Dec!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2017
“9/11 a ‘punishment’ for turning away from God
Moore has made a name for himself with some extreme comments, saying in 2005 that “homosexual conduct” should be illegal and likened it to bestiality.
In a recent campaign speech, he referred to people of Native American and Asian descent as “reds and yellows” and told a Washington Post reporter he did not believe in evolution.
He also suggested earlier this year that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks may have happened because the US had distanced itself from God.
Moore first lost his seat on the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse and a second time for defying the US Supreme Court’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage.
How many Roy Moore supporters would back someone making the following statements (all references to Christianity & Islam have been flipped)? pic.twitter.com/YmKqu94GCw— Gennady Rudkevich (@grudkev) September 27, 2017
Sound familiar? Grassroots vs the establishment
Moore, 70, is favoured to win the December election, as Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1992.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appeared with Strange at rallies in the race’s closing days and a political group affiliated with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spent close to $9 million on his behalf.
Moore, meanwhile, drew support from Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson.
Bannon said Moore’s victory could embolden other grassroots challengers to try to unseat well-funded Republican incumbents in next year’s congressional elections.
“You’re going to see in state after state people that follow the model of Judge Roy Moore, that do not need to raise money from the elites,” he said at Moore’s victory party.
But Moore said he would back the president. “Don’t let anybody in the press think that because he supported my opponent I do not support him and support his agenda,” Moore said.
If anyone interested – you can read this and understand why Trump’s racist statements were welcomed in Alabama https://t.co/9wnzI9Icxf— joanna626 (@joanna626) September 25, 2017