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Republican Senate Primary In Alabama Is Exposing Deep Fissures In Party

Sep 21, 2017
Originally published on September 22, 2017 11:02 am

Alabama Republican voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to determine their party's candidate in a special Senate election. It's a runoff between appointed Sen. Luther Strange and controversial former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore.

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In Alabama, Republican voters go to the polls next Tuesday to choose their party's candidate in a special Senate runoff. The choices are the current senator, Luther Strange, who was appointed, and former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore. Gigi Douban of member station WBHM asked voters what they think about the candidates.

GIGI DOUBAN, BYLINE: Roy Moore's campaign rented out a 400-seat auditorium for an event earlier this week in Heflin, Ala. But when only a few dozen people showed, they moved everyone to a small room. It started off like a Sunday at church.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) Have a little talk with Jesus, tell him all about our troubles.

DOUBAN: Moore is best known for being suspended from office as the chief justice of the state Supreme Court twice, once for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments in the courthouse and another time for refusing to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. But Moore remains defiant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY MOORE: I'm going to tell you, make it real clear for everybody listening in the world, I do not hate homosexuals. I do not hate people because of what they believe. But I hate sin.

DOUBAN: Seventy-year-old Larry Sims was at Moore's event. Sims supports Moore and doesn't agree with President Trump's endorsement of Senator Luther Strange. He calls Strange a puppet of Washington insiders.

LARRY SIMS: We're not puppets on the end of anybody's strings, and that includes Donald Trump.

DOUBAN: Sixteen miles east, right off Interstate 20 in Oxford, Ala., that same night, I find a group of older men playing softball.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Everybody come in. Come in. Come in.

DOUBAN: Diana Cain sat in the bleachers to watch her husband play. She says she'll probably vote for Luther Strange because he seems most aligned with Trump. But she's conflicted. Her father was an immigrant from Mexico, and she disagrees with the need for a border wall, which Strange has embraced.

DIANA CAIN: I think there's ways to go about it without spending all of our money and expecting another country to pay for it.

DOUBAN: Sitting a few feet away is Mary Robertson with her 21st grandchild. Her husband is the pitcher. She's still undecided about who to vote for on Tuesday. But she knows one thing - Trump's endorsement of Strange has absolutely no bearing on her choice. She voted for Trump, but she says she doesn't like the way he treats women.

MARY ROBERTSON: My husband treats me like a lady every single day. And he does think I'm precious. And that's the way men should take care of women.

DOUBAN: I ask if she feels like she has good options in Strange and Moore and she laughs.

ROBERTSON: We ain't had good options in years (laughter).

DOUBAN: Just like last November, she says this Tuesday, it's going to be a vote for the lesser of two evils. For NPR News, I'm Gigi Douban.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this story, we mistakenly say Oxford, Ala. is east of Heflin, Ala. It is west of Heflin, Ala. ]

(SOUNDBITE OF FREELANCE WHALES SONG, "LOCATION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.