Roy Moore is one step closer to becoming the junior U.S. senator from Alabama.
The controversial former chief justice bested the incumbent Sen. Luther Strange on Tuesday night, capturing 57 percent of the vote in the special election primary runoff with 57 percent of precincts reporting, enough for the Associated Press to call it at 8:28 p.m.
"The Constitution has been my life ... I fought in a war to defend that Constitution," Moore said in a victory speech Tuesday night. "I fought in the courts against liberal judges that have usurped their authority over that Constitution, and I'll fight for you in the United States Senate."
Results in Lee County were closer than they were statewide. With only nine percent voter turnout, Moore won the county with close to 52 percent of the vote to Strange's 48 percent.
"From the beginning of this campaign, my priority has been serving the people of Alabama," Strange said in a concession statement. "Tomorrow I will go back to work with President Trump and do all I can to advance his agenda over the next few weeks. ... I congratulate Roy Moore on the result this evening. May God be with him and may God continue to bless Alabama and the United States of America."
Moore received the most votes in the initial Republican primary in August, but wasn’t able to win more than 50 percent of the vote and avoid a runoff.
Washington Republicans' millions of dollars and President Donald Trump’s support for Strange appears to not have had much of an effect in the end. The president tweeted for months in support of Strange and made an appearance with him in Huntsville on Friday.
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Despite Trump winning Alabama in the 2016 general election with 62 percent of the state’s vote, according to a poll released by Alabama-based polling firm Cyngal, 31 percent of respondents said his endorsement made them more likely to vote for Strange, however 30 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Moore.
"Traditionally, in Alabama it has been hard for any popular politician to have coattails in a high-profile race," said Phillip Rawls, Auburn University journalism professor and former AP reporter. "People will make up their own minds, it doesn't seem to influence them who endorses who."
Negative ads against Strange have portrayed him as a corrupt member of the “swamp.” Strange was appointed in February by then Gov. Robert Bentley, who Strange’s office was investigating for actions relating to Bentley’s sex scandal.
"While we were honored to have fought hard for Big Luther, Judge Roy Moore won this nomination fair and square, and he has our support as it is vital that we keep this seat in Republican hands,” said a Senate Leadership Fund statement.
In an interview with "Rick and Bubba" yesterday, Trump said he would campaign "like hell" for Moore if he won the nomination.
Moore has been a near-perennial figure in the Alabama political landscape since the 1990s. He gained national attention in the early 2000s as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court when he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had made from the Supreme Court building.
He was removed from the bench in 2003 for his actions.
In 2012, he returned as Alabama chief justice. In April 2017, Moore resigned when faced with removal from office following a long battle over his refusal to follow a federal order allowing same-sex couples to be married.
Moore will advance to the general special U.S. Senate election against Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12.
Jones is a former federal prosecutor and is perhaps best known for successfully prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing.
"After years of embarrassing headlines about top public officials in this state, this race is about the people of Alabama and about choosing a candidate with character and integrity they can be proud of," Jones said in response to Moore's victory.
National Democrats could aim to take advantage of Moore's controversial character. Former Vice President Joe Biden will make an appearance at a Birmingham rally for Jones on Oct. 3.
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