Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) on Tuesday advanced to a primary runoff to fill a vacant Senate seat representing their state.
Moore led Strange 41 percent to 32 percent when The Associated Press called the race about two hours after polls in Alabama closed.
President Trump tweeted his congratulations to Moore and Strange.
Congratulation to Roy Moore and Luther Strange for being the final two and heading into a September runoff in Alabama. Exciting race!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
Tuesday’s results set up a major clash within the GOP over the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
President Trump endorsed Strange before Tuesday’s vote, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has also thrown his support behind the former college basketball player.
Strange, who was temporarily appointed to fill Sessions’ seat in February, said Tuesday that he is the best representative of Trump’s agenda.
“[Trump] knows I’m the person in this race who is going to help him make this country great again,” he said.
“It all boils down to who’s best suited to stand with the people of this country – with our president – to make America great again.”
Moore, meanwhile, touted his own advancement as a “great victory” against Washington, D.C.’s political establishment.
“The attempt by the silk stocking Washington elitists to control the vote of the people of Alabama has failed,” he said in Montgomery, Alabama.
Moore and Strange will next have a one-on-one sprint to a Sept. 26 runoff before a general election in December.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) was also a notable contender ahead of Tuesday’s results but ended falling short of the pair.
Former federal prosecutor Doug Jones, meanwhile, emerged victorious in the Democratic version of Tuesday’s primary with little opposition.
Jones has been backed by such big name Democrats as former Vice President Joe Biden but will likely have an uphill battle in deep red Alabama this December.
Alabama is staunchly Republican and Trump’s favor may go far with voters there heading to next month’s runoff.
Trump sports a 55 percent approval rating there, according to recent Gallup polling, a total higher than his national average.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.