Trump headed to Alabama to rally for GOP Senate candidate

Published: Sept. 22, 2017 at 11:05 AM

Eric DuVall

Sept. 22 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump will travel to Alabama on Friday to campaign for the Republican Party candidate in next week's GOP runoff for December's Senate special election.

The race is being held to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions, who resigned from the seat mid-term to become Trump's attorney general. The president and other party leaders have endorsed Sen. Luther Strange, the man appointed to temporarily hold the GOP seat earlier this year.

Trump, traveling from the New York area, where he attended the United Nations General Assembly and later his golf resort in New Jersey, said on Twitter he will head to Huntsville, Ala., for the rally Friday night.

Strange is attempting to hold off a challenge from conservative former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who came to prominence after being kicked off the court twice for ignoring federal court rulings.

Moore finished ahead of Strange in a multi-candidate primary, but did not receive a high enough percentage of the vote to avoid Tuesday's run-off. The winner will go on to face Democrat Doug Jones, a civil rights lawyer who led the prosecution in the wake of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, in the special election.

The winner will finish the remainder of Sessions' six-year term, which expires in 2021.

Moore has a history of controversial comments about race and once called homosexuality an "inherent evil." Moore was also a central figure in a long court battle over the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings. Moore ruled it was legal, a decision that was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds it violated the First Amendment's division of church and state.

Trump's decision to back the establishment candidate Strange, who has benefitted from significant financial support by a super PAC controlled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, puts the president at odds with some familiar faces who helped engineer his own political rise.

Moore has received the endorsement of former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon and Breitbart News, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, among other figures in the populist wing of the Republican Party.

At a rally Thursday, Palin attempted to split Trump supporters -- he won the state by nearly 30 percentage points in November -- from the president himself.

"A vote for Judge Moore isn't a vote against the president. It is a vote for the people's agenda that elected the president," Palin said.

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