Alabama Senate race a fight to the finish

HEFLIN, Ala. (AP) — Wearing an NRA baseball cap and newly armed with an endorsement from President Donald Trump, Alabama Sen. Luther Strange on Saturday strolled by the sausage vendors and rodeo ticket booths at a rural county fair, rallying voters ahead of Tuesday’s critical Republican primary for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat.

“The day will turn on turnout. That’s why the President’s endorsement is so critical,” Strange said between handshakes. Strange said he thought Trump’s support would make “the difference” in the race. “That’s what I told the President,” Strange said. However, Strange declined to say if he thought he could win without a runoff, citing turnout.

Despite both the endorsement of Trump via a Tuesday tweet backing of millions of dollars in advertising by a super political action committee tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Strange has found himself in what could be a tight Republican primary race with firebrand challengers. Those rivals include Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore — who was twice removed from office over stances for the public display of the Ten Commandments and against gay marriage — and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who is backed by tea party voters in the state.

The Alabama race for Sessions’ former seat has devolved into a high-dollar GOP civil war. McConnell’s allies have made a heavy investment to keep Strange in the seat, while the challengers hope to ride an anti-Washington backlash to victory. The race will go to a September runoff between the top two finishers if no candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday. The winning Democrat and Republican will face off in December.

At the Cleburne County Fair, where country and Christian music blared from loudspeakers, several voters said they were still thinking — and, in some cases, praying — about how to vote.

Cleburne Probate Judge Ryan Robertson said he has great respect for Strange, but also appreciated that Moore “took a stand” on gay marriage. Moore was permanently suspended from his chief justice duties in 2016 after telling probate judges that they did not need to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of a state court order. Cleburne is one of eight counties that stopped issuing marriage licenses, so county officials did not have to give them to same-sex couples.

“He stuck his neck out,” Robertson said of Moore.

Moore and Brooks have both criticized Strange as the…

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