Following a candidate forum yesterday, members of the Wetumpka Tea Party decisively rejected Alabama’s former attorney general Luther Strange in a straw poll.
According to Corey Arwood at The Wetumpka Herald, Strange received just four votes — less than the 15 who were “undecided” and far less than the 139 ballots for front-runner Roy Moore.
Mo Brooks, the cantankerous representative for north Alabama’s 5th congressional district who won that office with a strong appeal to Tea Party voters, garnered 103 votes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to keep Strange in the seat that Jeff Sessions vacated to run the Department of Justice for Donald Trump. In fact, he has directed $8 million from his own political machine to support Strange with ads against Brooks and Moore.
But the results yesterday suggest that Alabama conservatives may be ready to hand McConnell and the Washington GOP establishment a stinging embarrassment.
Arwood reports that “outrage seemed the order of the day” at the meeting, which was dominated by the sort of older white residents who want Barack Obama erased from the history books.
Brooks wanted mutually assured destruction in the event of a North Korea nuclear attack. Moore said transgender people were not real while Brooks said socialist democrats would demand taxpayers pay for their reassignment surgeries.
Immigrants were associated with terrorism and global warming and climate change appeared to be an immediately laughable inside joke shared in by both the audience and candidates.
Only the three front-runners for the Republican nomination were invited to the event, yet Strange still failed to show up. Becky Gerritson, President of the Wetumpka Tea Party, explained that despite the August recess, Strange had stayed in Washington for a confirmation vote.
While some polls have shown Strange taking a lead in the nine-candidate field, his refusal to campaign in the state — or to meet with grassroots conservative voters — is adding to the impression of a Washington insider who is out of touch with their concerns.
Strange was named to the opened Senate seat by Gov. Robert Bentley, who resigned in disgrace over a sex scandal and related abuses of power just weeks later. Strange had impeded efforts to impeach Bentley in the state house, leading to backlash over the perception of a quid pro quo.
As a result, McConnell and Strange have adopted a strategy of attacking Brooks for insufficient fealty to Donald Trump.
In recent days, Brooks has fought back with a statewide bus tour and an ad that features a canceled $2,500 check he wrote to the Alabama GOP for the Trump campaign.
“Brooks had a fiery demeanor and drew cheers and applause” at the forum, Arwood reports. “Throughout the night he went heavily on the offensive against his absent opponent.”
Moore, who was expelled from leadership of the state supreme court for a second time this year over his refusals to recognize the supremacy of federal courts, has become the leading US Senate candidate on the strength of his right wing culture war stances. But he does comparatively little actual campaigning.
The vote will be held on August 15th. As no candidate polls with a clear majority, it is likely there will be a runoff to determine who gets to ceremonially defeat the eventual winner of the Democratic primary race.
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