Trump's pick for Republican senator loses to populist ex-judge

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump's pick in the Alabama Republican Senate run-off crashed to defeat on Tuesday against a populist former judge.

The result is a setback for Mr Trump that highlights the divisions within his party. It also signals that many in the grassroots conservative movement that helped propel Mr Trump to the White House are still fighting against the party leadership and its grip on Washington politics.

With 65 out of 67 counties reporting, former Alabama state chief justice Roy Moore led incumbent Luther Strange by 54.9 per cent to 45.1 per cent.

Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in 25 years, so Mr Moore, 70, is expected to become Alabama's next senator after the special election to be held in December against Democratic nominee Doug Jones.

Mr Trump has now appeared to shift his support to Moore, urging him in a tweet to "WIN in Dec!".

The race in Alabama was the latest battleground over the Republican Party's direction in Washington. It was also a proxy war of sorts between Mr Trump and his recently ousted White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who backed Mr Moore.

Mr Trump was hoping to win a loyalist in Mr Strange, 64, who had openly backed his agenda.

Opinionated and unconcerned about whom he may offend, Mr Moore has threatened to upend the Republican Party should he win and had branded his opponent an "establishment lackey" to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. - AFP

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