MORRISTOWN, N.J. — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson issued a statement Friday supporting Roy Moore’s candidacy for the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama, breaking with President Trump's endorsement of the establishment-backed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange.
The extraordinary endorsement in Tuesday's primary runoff election came just hours before Trump was set to arrive in Alabama to campaign for Strange.
It highlights what appears to be a growing rift between the outsider president and his grass roots supporters, many of whom have vocally backed Moore’s candidacy.
“Judge Moore is a fine man of proven character and integrity, who I have come to respect over the years,” Carson said. “He is truly someone who reflects the Judeo-Christian values that were so important to the establishment of our country."
“It is these values that we must return to make America great again,” the statement continued. “ I wish him well and hope everyone will make sure they vote on Tuesday.’
Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is a controversial figure in the state. He was removed from his post in 2003 for failing to follow federal orders to take down a monument to the Ten Commandments that he had installed at the Alabama Judicial Building. In his second stint as chief justice, after being elected in 2013, he resigned in April.
Despite support for Moore from some of Trump’s most ardent supporters, including two former White House officials, Stephen K. Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, the president has endorsed Strange in the race. Vice President Pence also plans to campaign for Strange ahead of the runoff vote.
In a tweet Friday, Trump praised Strange and predicted that the race would be close. Some recent polls had shown Moore leading, though the contest was getting more competitive.
“Will be in Alabama tonight. Luther Strange has gained mightily since my endorsement, but will be very close. He loves Alabama, and so do I!” Trump wrote.