President Donald Trump has endorsed Luther Strange in the special election for the Alabama senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump tweeted Tuesday night:
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
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Also Endorses Strange
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also expressed his support for Strange. “As I would be with any Republican senator. I think he’s done an outstanding job,” the Kentucky Senator said.
On July 31 Politico reported Senate Leadership Fund, a pro-McConnell super PAC is set to spend $6-8 million promoting Strange and attacking GOP candidates Roy Moore and Mo Brooks.
Both Moore and Brooks have run ads criticizing McConnell.
“While he doesn’t direct what we do, McConnell has made it very clear that Luther’s race is his No. 1 political priority right now,” said Steven Law, Senate Leadership Fund’s president McConnell’s former chief of staff.
Big Luther’s Controversial Senate Appointment
Strange was appointed to the Senate by ex-Alabama Governor Robert Bentley when Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Trump’s Attorney General in February. The appointment was intended to last until the next election in 2018.
As Alabama Attorney General, Strange’s office had been investigating Bentley for possible misuse of state resources related to an adulterous affair with a staffer. Bentley’s wife of 50 years divorced him in 2015, only months after he was elected to his second term as governor.
In April 2016, 23 members of the Alabama House of Representatives filed articles of impeachment against Bentley. On November 3, 2016 Strange asked Alabama lawmakers to delay the impeachment proceedings while his office did “related work.” Strange claims that was not a favor to Bentley but a precaution to make sure the impeachment investigation would not interfere with the work of his office.
Bentley resigned from office in April 2017 after pleading guilty to campaign finance and ethics violations. In May, Governor Kay Ivey called for a special election to fill the seat.
Alabama voters have reacted negatively to Strange’s appointment to the Senate and to his association with Bentley. “He’s got too many Bentley cooties on him. He can’t wash them off,” one Baldwin County voter told ABC News.
Strange Trails in The Latest Poll
Despite the big money behind Strange’s campaign, ousted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leads among likely Republican voters at 30 percent in the latest polls. Strange had 22 percent while Congressman Mo Brooks polled at 19 percent.
Alabama State Senator Trip Pitman was fourth in the poll at 6 percent. Five other GOP candidates polled at less than 2 percent with 17 percent undecided.
The poll was conducted August 5 and 6 by Louisiana firm JMG Analytics and Polling. The poll’s margin of error is 5 percent.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told the Associated Press he expects a low voter turnout of 20-25 percent in the August 15 Special Election primary. Merrill said a typical primary brings turnout of 30-32 percent.
According to Alabama law, if no candidate receives more than half the vote in the primary a runoff will be held on September 26. The Democratic and Republican nominees will square off in the general election in December.