By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler sent a request to President Donald Trump asking the president to switch his endorsement in Alabama’s U.S. Senate Republican runoff from Luther Strange to Judge Roy Moore.
Trump endorsed the appointed U.S. Sen. Strange in the August 15 GOP primary, but Strange finished second to former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Moore by six percentage points.
The two meet in a Sept. 26, 2017, runoff for the Republican Senate nomination.
Zeigler explained to Trump the “corrupt circumstances” by which he says Strange was appointed to the Senate by “disgraced former Governor Robert Bentley.”
Zeigler insisted, “The Trump-like challenger in the Senate runoff is Republican Judge Roy Moore.”
Zeigler wrote to the president, “To support the Trump agenda, you should withdraw the endorsement of Luther Strange. Temporary Senator Luther Strange was appointed by disgraced former Governor Bentley. That appointment was made under corrupt circumstances. Luther Strange was Attorney General of Alabama at that time. His office was supposedly investigating Bentley. While Bentley was the subject of a criminal investigation by Strange’s office, Strange interviewed with Bentley for the Senate appointment. A prosecutor should never ever seek and accept a job from a person he had under investigation. The Bentley appointment was beyond strange. It was totally inappropriate. Luther Strange had announced that he would not interview with Bentley for the Senate appointment. He then did interview with Bentley and accepted the appointment. Very strange.”
Zeigler added, “Luther Strange is one of the Mitch McConnell Insiders who have failed to pass the Trump agenda. Mitch McConnell and his insiders are pumping millions into Alabama trying to buy the election for Luther Strange. We in Alabama resent his intrusion. Kentucky already has two senators and does not need a third.”
Zeigler continued, “The millions being spent by McConnell trying to defeat Judge Roy Moore should be saved for the 2018 mid-terms. We need that money to defend our 52-48 Republican majority in the Senate. We must hold onto the senate to confirm your appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2016, Luther Strange did not support you until late in the election cycle, and then not much. I was on stage at the very first ‘huuuge’ Trump rally at Mobile’s football stadium in August 2015. The Trump voters of Alabama have spoken in the Aug. 15 Republican primary. The largest number want Judge Roy Moore as Senator to push the Trump agenda.”
Zeigler continued, “Mr. President, to make America great again and to push the Trump agenda, please reverse your endorsement. Please ‘Change on Strange’ and ‘Switch on Mitch’ by endorsing Judge Roy Moore. We at the grassroots in Alabama oppose Luther Strange for U.S. Senate and ask you to join with us.”
Zeigler read his open letter to the public Tuesday night in a speech to the Elmore County Republican Party meeting in Wetumpka.
Since being elected in 2014, Zeigler has been a vocal critic of both Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Strange. Zeigler subpoenaed Bentley, who was suspected of misusing State personnel, vehicles, helicopters and business jets to facilitate his alleged affair with married former staffer Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Strange as Alabama’s attorney general blocked Zeigler’s investigation. Zeigler then filed a complaint with the Alabama Ethics Commission against Bentley.
After nearly two dozen members of the Alabama House of Representatives signed articles of impeachment against Bentley, the House Judiciary Committee started their own investigation. When the committee was ready to hold hearings on Bentley’s questionable conduct, Strange again intervened and sent a letter to then House Judiciary Committee Chairman state Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, urging the Judiciary Committee to suspend its efforts. Strange’s expected indictments of Bentley and his administration never materialized. Instead, Bentley appointed Strange to the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions. Zeigler’s Alabama Ethics Commission complaint eventually led to recommendations by the Ethics Commission that the Montgomery district attorney consider charges against Bentley. After Strange left for the Senate, his successor, Steve Marshall, appointed a special prosecutor, and the House resumed their efforts to hold hearings. The day of those hearings, just five days after Zeigler’s victory before the Ethics Commission, Bentley pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges and resigned from office.
Strange continues to deny any wrongdoing.
He faces Moore on Sept. 26. The winner of the GOP primary runoff will face Clinton-era U.S. Attorney Doug Jones in the Dec. 12, 2017, Special Election.
Zeigler is exploring possibly running for Governor next year. The Republican primary will be on June 5, 2018.