The Gun Owners of America (GOA) has endorsed two candidates for senator in the race to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions, who was appointed by Donald Trump to become attorney general. Interestingly, neither of the two recommended candidates is the sitting Republican senator who was appointed to Sessions’ seat in the interim by a former governor.
In a press release, the GOA said that it supports Rep. Mo Brooks and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore to fill Sessions’ seat in the Senate. Tim Macy, chairman of the GOA, praised Brooks and Moore for their “strong, uncompromising records on gun rights.”
“Mo Brooks has an ‘A’ rating from GOA as U.S. Representative, and Judge Moore has long been an articulate, and uncompromising, champion for gun rights,” Macy said in the release. “Either of these candidates would fight for gun rights, instead of the D.C. establishment.”
The current frontrunner in the field of 11 Republicans and eight Democrats is the incumbent Senator Luther Strange. Strange was appointed to fill Sessions’ seat by the disgraced Robert Bentley, who was forced to resign as governor after his affair with Rebekah Mason and the subsequent cover up became a national scandal. Strange previously served as Alabama’s attorney general and had responsibility for investigating Gov. Bentley’s crimes. The circumstances of Strange’s appointment as he investigated the governor left a sour taste in the mouths of many Alabamans, especially after accusations that Strange intentionally delayed the impeachment proceedings against Bentley for six months.
Some political opponents are also attempting to tie Strange to the case of Oliver Robinson, a state legislator accused of taking $360,000 in bribes. The Project on Government Oversight reported that Strange and many other Alabama politicians, including Jeff Sessions, took money from Drummond Coal and Balch & Bingham, a Birmingham law firm. Drummond and Balch are accused of paying bribes to Robinson in connection with an EPA Superfund site that would have cost the coal company tens of millions of dollars in cleanup funds.
The Alabama Ethics Commission was also scheduled to hold a hearing on alleged campaign finance violations by Strange on August 2. The Resurgent reported that the hearing was postponed until August 16, the day after the Republican primary for the special election.
The reason that GOA is not supporting Strange is a simple one. “Strange has pledged his loyalty to Senate leaders,” Macy said. “Unfortunately, he has quickly become a ‘Swamp Creature.’”
The Washington Examiner reported that the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC affiliated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), spent millions of dollars to buy attack ads against both Brooks and Moore. The support from McConnell will further cement the perception that Strange is part of the Republican establishment.
Mo Brooks is currently a congressman from Alabama’s fifth district, which incorporates the northern part of the state. Brooks has served in the House of Representatives since 2011. He endorsed Ted Cruz for president in 2016 and was critical of Donald Trump throughout the campaign, a fact which Strange has used to attack him. In 2011, the American Conservative Union called Brooks the most conservative member of the Alabama House delegation. He maintains an 89 percent lifetime rating from the ACU.
Roy Moore is best known outside Alabama for his battle with the federal judiciary over the Ten Commandments. As chief justice, Moore kept a promise to install a Ten Commandments monument in the state Supreme Court building. He was removed from office by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary in 2003 for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove the monument. He was reelected as chief justice in 2012, but was forced to resign for refusing to uphold the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
Both Brooks and Moore have a large following in Alabama, while Strange has the advantages of incumbency and support of the party leadership. Recent polling shows Strange and Moore in a statistical heat with 35 and 33 percent respectively. Brooks trails with 16 percent.
The primary vote for the special election will be held on August 15. If no Republican earns more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will face each other in a runoff on September 26. The special election will be held on December 12.