Luther Strange will face Roy Moore in the Republican runoff primary election on September 26. The two are competing to fill the seat left vacant earlier this year by Jeff Sessions, who was confirmed as President Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney general.
Both candidates are veterans of the Alabama political world—Moore previously served as chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and Strange was the state attorney general before Governor Robert Bentley appointed him to replace Sessions until the special election.
Bentley resigned from office later that month in the culmination of a months-long ethics investigation stemming from an extramarital affair with a top aide, tainting Strange’s appointment in some eyes.
Endorsed by both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Strange, who stands out in a crowd at a towering 6 feet 9 inches, has begun his tenure in Washington with a bang, introducing legislation and winning appointments to key committees.
Here’s what you need to know about Luther Strange on the issues:
1. Strange Supported the Repeal of DACA and Wants to Build the Border Wall
Since assuming Sessions’ Senate seat in February, Strange has openly supported Donald Trump’s immigration agenda—including building the controversial wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
In June, Strange introduced legislation in the Senate that would strip transportation funds from so-called “sanctuary cities” that have refused to comply with Trump’s immigration policies; the bill is currently in committee. The freed-up funds would be put toward construction of the border wall.
“I introduced this bill to make it clear that cities do not get to play games with the safety of their people or ignore clear federal statutes. They can either follow the law or fund the wall,” said Strange upon introducing the bill.
The senator wrote an op-ed about the legislation in The Hill in August:
Beyond describing a high crime rate, the data tells us that criminal aliens are repeatedly given the opportunity to offend again, with deadly results for our citizens.
Under President Obama, we saw an unwarranted extension of amnesty programs which neglected the root of the illegal immigration crisis. We saw a troubling lack of urgency in addressing the sanctuary cities which subvert the rule of law.
Strange’s critics have pointed toward his involvement in an Alabama company that brokers visa applications under the controversial EB-5 program that earned him, according to state Auditor Jim Zeigler, about $150,000 in revenue.
His campaign responded to the criticism by saying that “Luther agrees with the Trump administration that there are serious concerns over the EB-5 visa program, which is not being used as originally intended. It’s time for Congress to get to work on these issues.”
2. Strange Opposes Obamacare & Supports Partial Repeal or Replacement
Strange has also thrown his weight behind the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, saying on his campaign website:
Luther Strange is already working with fellow conservatives in Congress to shape legislation to help President Trump keep his promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered reform, leading to lowered premiums and increased access
In June 2017, Strange appeared on Fox News urging for an expedient resolution to the healthcare debate in order “to fix the Obamacare mess.”
“[I]t’s very frustrating to watch my colleagues on the Democratic side come out with attacks on a bill they haven’t even seen yet. They’ve already written it off. They’ve signaled to us they have no interest in helping us at all and that’s very disappointing,” the senator continued.
The following month on a radio program, Strange indicated that he “strongly support[s]” Trump’s approach on healthcare, which he described as, “‘Let’s replace it with something good. We have a good proposal. We’re almost there. We’re very close to getting to the end. We’re a short distance from victory so let’s stay in the room, stay in Washington until we get it done.'”
His opponent, Roy Moore, is also in favor of repealing Obamacare, but the two differ on whether they would support a partial repeal. Moore has indicated he would not; Strange has expressed support for partial repeal legislation like Graham-Cassidy, but has not committed either way.
3. Strange Thinks There Should “Be No Compromise in the Defense of the Rights of the Unborn”
Openly anti-abortion as attorney general of Alabama, Strange has also brought his fight to the Senate since he assumed the seat in February. In June, he introduced the Sanctity of Human Life Act, legislation that would legally define fertilization as the beginning of life.
“Science has advanced a long way in the 44 years since Roe v. Wade, and it is time that our laws reflect the undeniable truth that life begins at fertilization, and that unborn citizens are entitled to the same protections as every American,” said Strange in a press release.
Abortion in most states is currently permitted up to a certain gestation age; Strange’s legislation would ostensibly provide a legal argument against abortion at any point in pregnancy.
He also joined the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in May, which advocates for adoption services as an alternative to abortion.
“I stand for protecting the most vulnerable–the unborn–and was proud to recently receive the endorsement of the Alabama Citizens for Life for my office’s efforts ‘to defend the respect life legislation’ in Alabama since 2011. There should be no compromise in the defense of the rights of the unborn,” Strange said in 2013.
4. Strange Has Opposed Federal Mandates Like Universal Contraception Coverage Under Obamacare, Citing Religious Reasons
Johnson Amendment to the U.S. tax code, which restricts the political activity of tax-exempt organizations, like churches.Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) departs the U.S. Capitol for a briefing on North Korea at the White House April 26, 2017 in Washington, DC.In May 2017, Trump signed an executive order “to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty,” targeting the 1954
“[The] executive order did not ease the current restrictions on political activity by religious organizations … but prohibits the IRS from expanding the restrictions to cover activity not covered before the executive order,” explained general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center Lawrence Noble to CNN.
Senator Strange responded positively to the order in a press release:
Alabama’s churches and charities know all too well what the last eight years have done to erode trust in government, from Obamacare’s restrictive contraceptive mandate to the IRS’ discrimination toward religious organizations. As state Attorney General, I fought Obama’s radical agenda every step of the way, and today, I am glad to see President Trump taking action. I look forward to working with the administration to affirm and uphold the Constitutional right to religious liberty
In 2012, while serving as state attorney general, he wrote an op-ed for AL.com on the issue of the Obamacare mandate that religious organizations must cover contraception in employee insurance policies or face federal fines.
Strange wrote that the mandate defied an amendment to the state constitution ratified by Alabama voters in 1998 that “expressly forbid[s] state officials from burdening a person’s freedom of religion unless there was no other way to accomplish a compelling policy result.”
The absence of a contraception mandate has not prevented Alabamians from accessing those services; contraception is widely available. It is unclear how the federal government’s mandate benefits society or how anyone would be harmed if organizations such as EWTN could opt out.
5. Strange Has Had Little to Say About the Nation’s Recent Racial Tensions, but Did Condemn the Violence in Charlottesville Earlier This Year
Like his opponent, Strange has said little publicly about the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent spate of police shootings that have resulted in protests across the nation.
But in a state where 26 percent of the population is black, voters are sure to wonder.
Following the attack during an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this year, Strange tweeted that there was “no excuse for the violence and hatred … [it] should be condemned by all.”
Commenters on the tweet lambasted Strange for not denouncing white supremacy by name, with one commenter asking, “What are you condemning? Who?”
“I stand with President Trump and leaders from both parties condemning these actions,” the senator said in another tweet, to which people again replied asking whose actions he condemned.