Alabama Republicans will head back to the polls Sept. 26 to decide their party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, with GOP heavyweights Roy Moore and Luther Strange set to meet in a runoff.
Moore received some 40 percent, or 149,882 votes, to Strange’s 33 percent, or 125,893 votes during Tuesday’s GOP primary. Rep. Mo Brooks finished third with 20 percent, or 77,338 votes.
None of the remainder of the 10-candidate Republican field garnered more than 7 percent of the total votes.
The race wasn’t as close for Democrats, with Birmingham attorney Doug Jones sweeping the field. Jones received 65 percent of the vote to Robert Kennedy’s 18 percent and Michael Hansen’s 8 percent.
Here’s what we learned from Tuesday night’s primary:
Trump got trumped…sort of
Alabama came out big for President Trump last November, giving the GOP nominee 62 percent of the vote. But Tuesday, despite a three-tweet shout out from the president, Strange came in second to former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, best known for his defense of the 10 Commandments. Moore was backed by a host of religious and conservative leaders ranging from James Dobson to Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame.
Nationally, the race was being closely watched to see if Trump had lost any of his allure in Alabama.
The Democratic Party now has a face – and a recognizable name – in Alabama
The Democratic Party had all but died in the state until Tuesday when it appeared to resurrect itself somewhat. Doug Jones, a former U.S. Attorney who prosecuted two Klansmen for their part in the deadly 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, walked away with the Democratic Senate nomination.
Jones faces an uphill battle in solidly Red Alabama, but it was a strong showing for the once-dominant party.
Alabamians appear to have a short memory when it comes to Moore
Moore was first elected as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2001, only to be suspended in 2003 after he refused a federal court order to remove a monument to the 10 Commandments he had installed at the state courthouse. He was reelected in 2012 but was suspended again in May 2016 over his defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court order involving same-sex marriage.
Alabama voters don’t seem to mind, making Moore the top vote-getter Tuesday, despite heavy GOP financial backing for Strange.
While voters seem comfortable with sending Moore to Washington, they’ve twice rejected – first in 2006 and again in 2010 – his bids for the Governor’s office.
But seem slow to forgive Strange
In February, former Alabama State Attorney General Luther Strange was named by then-Governor Robert Bentley to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions, after Sessions was tapped by President Trump to serve as U.S. Attorney General. The appointment came after Strange had asked a House committee looking into allegations against Gov. Bentley to delay its work as his office completed a “related investigation.”
Three months later, Bentley named Strange to replace Sessions, setting off a wave of criticism that the appointment was political payback. In April, Bentley resigned from office as part of a plea deal for ethics and campaign finance violations in connection to his relationship with a former adviser.
Strange has had to field questions about the appointment since he was named to replace Sessions.
Some incumbent concerns
Strange isn’t a typical incumbent, having never been elected to the Senate seat. However, a primary loss isn’t a good sign.
Some numbers from earlier Tuesday night:
Strange down 9.7 pts, largest primary deficit an incumbent has overcome in runoff was 8.0 pts by Charles Culberson (D-TX) in 1922. #ALSen
— Geoffrey Skelley (@geoffreyvs) August 16, 2017
There were election-day issues
It’s not a good sign when a candidate goes to vote and finds himself on the inactive list. That’s what happened to Brooks Tuesday, though the problem was rectified quickly once the Alabama Congressman updated his information.
Rep. Patricia Todd, a Birmingham Democrat, had the same issue at her polling place.
Secretary of State John Merrill said the U.S. Post Office failed to deliver update cards to either Brooks or Todd.
And turnout was terrible
Secretary of State John Merrill predicted a turnout of about 10-15 percent. Initial numbers show those estimates to be accurate.
There’s still a way to go for Republicans
Looks like we have a little more than a month before we know the GOP nominee. The Republican runoff is set for Sept. 26.
No Democrats who voted in their party’s primary will be able to cast a ballot in the GOP runoff. This election marked the first time the no-cross-over voting rule is in place for the runoff.
It could get ugly
The primary season was marked with a series of negative ads, mostly backed by Senate Republicans and aimed at Moore.
Look for plenty more.
“In the coming weeks, Strange’s campaign will display some of the most negative ads in the history of the state,” Moore said Tuesday night. “Those in Washington are scared.”
Whoever wins for the GOP, here’s when they will meet Jones
Jones and the winner of the Moore/Strange runoff will meet in the general election Dec. 12.