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Record campaign contributions pour into Alabama special election

CW File

Adam Dodson

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With the Sept. 26 runoff for Alabama’s Republican primary special election looming, the campaign contributions for both Roy Moore and Luther Strange set Alabama records for a congressional race. The senate seat, which was left vacated by current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has garnered nationwide attention and seen millions of dollars funneling in for both candidates.

According to FEC filings, “Big” Luther Strange has been the recipient of more campaign funds than Moore and also seems to have more support from those in D.C. Strange has raised more than $4 million for his campaign, with the Senate Leadership Fund spending over $2.5 million on Roy Moore attack ads.  The NRA has also thrown their support behind Strange, spending over $1 million in his support. President Donald Trump has publicly supported Strange, tweeting in favor of him multiple times and hosting a rally in Huntsville, Alabama on Sept. 23. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also affiliated with the pro-Strange Senate Leadership Fund.

But despite more campaign funding and D.C. support, Roy Moore maintains a lead in the majority of polls. According to a Sept. 18 opinion poll run by JMC Analytics and Policy, Moore has a lead with 47 percent choosing him, 39 percent choosing Strange and 13 percent undecided. Of those undecided voters, 8 percent more people say they are leaning towards Moore. 

One explanation for why Moore is winning despite less funding and political support, according to Gerald Fraas, Executive Affairs Director for Young Americans for Freedom, is that Moore’s loyal voters have actually been mobilized by the constant negative attack ads thrown Moore’s way by Strange’s supporters. They view Strange as the “swamp” candidate.

“It seems as though Moore voters became galvanized by the excessive negative ad funding put into the race by DC-based funds, and will likely be more inclined to go to the polls because of it,” Fraas said. “It appears the attack ads against Senator Strange have had no effect on leaning-Strange voters, but instead served to motivate Moore voters or deter participation in the election.”

It is peculiar that Luther Strange has gained the support of Donald Trump, who largely campaigned on “drain the swamp” ideals, while Strange is widely viewed in Alabama as the typical suit-and-tie candidate. 

On the other hand, Moore has received $85,000 campaign contributions from the Swamp Drainers Foundation. 

However, Strange’s higher social media presence and endorsement from Trump may be leading his numbers in the winning direction. Alabama has the highest approval ratings for President Trump. On Sept. 16, Trump tweeted his support for Luther, calling him a “great guy” and announcing his plan to be in Huntsville to support him. The JMC polls, taken two days after Trump’s tweet, show that Strange has gained 7 percent in the polls since their previous survey, moving up to 39 percent.

“President Trump’s endorsement to Senator Strange has been a momentous boost in a positive direction,” said Michael Doehring, a Field Director for the Strange Campaign. “Alabamians support the president, and they will carry out his endorsement of Senator Strange on Election Day. Continuous tweets by the president in support of Strange, and most recently his rally in Huntsville will give Strange a significant boost on Election Day.”

Both candidates have been negatively attacked by the other in the media. Moore supporters have attempted to highlight Strange’s questionable relationship with former governor Robert Bentley and his “swamp” backing, while Strange supporters have pointed towards Moore being “anti-Trump” and his controversial statements regarding race and religion. 

Although Moore’s recent controversial statements made their way into national headlines, over half of Alabama voters (52 percent) believe he is qualified to be Senator. Also, despite negative advertisement, the expected total voter turnout has risen 1 pecent.

Another issue voters may consider on Election Day is how each candidate will act and think if they get to D.C. 

Moore, who is viewed as the anti-establishment candidate, is expected to be more unpredictable and more likely to vote on his conscious rather than based off what others do. Strange, who is viewed by many as the pro-establishment candidate, is expected to act more in line with the party platform.

“While the difference between the two candidates in Senate votes would probably be minimal, Strange seems like a quiet, easy vote for whatever Mitch McConnell wants, while Moore can be a radical mouthpiece,” said Mike Smith, Executive Director of UA College Democrats.

Students who are registered and interested in voting in the election on Sept. 26 may do so by going to the University’s student recreation center located at 401 5th Avenue East.

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Record campaign contributions pour into Alabama special election