Voters head to the polls today in Alabama’s special election primary

15 Aug

Voters are set to head to the polls in Alabama today for primaries in the race for a U.S. Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was confirmed as attorney general.

After Sessions’ confirmation to Trump’s Cabinet, Alabama’s then-Gov. Robert Bentley appointed the state’s attorney general, Luther Strange, to temporarily fill Sessions’ Senate seat until a special election. Strange has been representing the people of Alabama in the Senate since February. Before that, Sessions held the seat since 1997.

Bentley resigned in April after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges related to campaign finance improprieties. After his resignation, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey became governor and scheduled the special election to replace Sessions.

While the president’s approval rating stands at just 34 percent, according to the most recent Gallup data, the Alabama race has pitted Republican against Republican to see who can best prove their allegiance to Trump.

Trump unexpectedly endorsed Strange last week, sending out a tweet praising his work in the Senate thus far.

The other two candidates, U.S. Representative Mo Brooks and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, have also tried to tie themselves closely to Trump, with Brooks promising to filibuster any government funding bill in the Senate that does not include money to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a key promise of Trump during the presidential campaign.

Brooks called Trump’s endorsement of Strange “baffling” in a statement.

Strange has the backing of the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The PAC, which has spent $3.5 million as of late July on the race, according to Politico, has also attacked Brooks for comments he made criticizing Trump during the 2016 presidential primaries. Brooks was an early supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz before pledging his support to Trump.

Moore has raised eyebrows in the state for his stances and legal judgments from Alabama’s Supreme Court. He previously served as the state’s chief justice but was suspended in November 2003 for refusing federal court orders to take down a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building.

Moore was endorsed by conservative actor Chuck Norris, who said of the candidate, “Judge Roy Moore is the real deal. The Washington establishment knows they won’t be able to count on him, but Alabama voters can … That’s why the Washington establishment is spending millions trying to defeat Judge Moore.”

Alabama voters have not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992. Among the seven Democrats running in the primary, contenders include Doug Jones, who served as U.S. district attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and former Navy officer Robert Kennedy Jr., who shares no affiliation with the famous political family.

A runoff election is scheduled for Sept. 26 in the event that in either primary one candidate does not receive 50 percent of the vote or more. The special election is then scheduled for Dec. 12, with the winner of that election going on to serve out the remainder of Sessions’ term until January 2021.

ABC News’ Saisha Talwar and Dylan Wells contributed to this report.