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AL-2 GOP runoff, candidates battle for who is the truest Republican

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In the GOP campaign for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman and former Enterprise State Rep. Barry Moore have demonstrated their devotion for President Trump from day one. But as time runs out for Tuesday’s GOP runoff, both are trying to prove who is the most reliably conservative – and who is not.

Coleman has faced attacks from the Washington-based political group Club for Growth, accusing Coleman of donating money to Democratic candidates in the past. Coleman says these attacks are part of Washington insiders trying to control local elections and accusing Club for Growth being anti-farm and anti-military.

“I think that the people need to know that my opponent has sold his voting card to a Washington insider super PAC for over $700,000 in nasty negative attack ads against me,” Coleman told Alabama Daily News on Wednesday.

Moore says his voting record in the Alabama State House shows his commitment to conservative values.

“I fought in the Alabama Legislature and was labeled Alabama’s most dependable conservative vote,” Moore told ADN on Wednesday. “I will be no different in Washington, D.C.”

Coleman has called into question Moore’s early support for Trump after voting records showed that he did not vote in the crucial 2016 presidential primary election. Moore was one of the first elected officials in Alabama to support Trump in 2015. When confronted with records showing he didn’t vote in the 2016 primary, Moore apologized to voters and pointed to the fact that later voted for Trump as a delegate at the Republican convention that year.

Both agree that Washington is at risk of being taken over by a “socialist liberal agenda” and say they will fight for conservative and capitalist concerns if elected.

Neither candidate has anything bad to say about how Trump has handled the coronavirus pandemic, but Coleman says the pandemic has made him think about the need for broadband expansion in the state.

“We see these rural areas of the second congressional district where there is no broadband and I think that’s been a huge weakness that’s been accentuated during this shutdown period,” Coleman said. “So I’m going to be a fighter for rural broadband and see what we can do to bring coverage to rural Alabama.”

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Moore thinks more manufacturing needs to be done in the U.S. instead of in China, and issue that has been brought to light during the pandemic, he says.

“The Chinese Communist Party spies on us,” Moore said. “They steal our intellectual property and sell it back to us. They need to be held accountable for their absolute negligence in regard to COVID 19. We must not ever depend on China for critical medical supplies and pharmaceuticals again.”

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Coleman has outraised and outspent Moore during this campaign, thanks to the help of some notable Alabama Republicans.

The current AL-2 Rep. Martha Roby and Alabama’s most senior statesman Sen. Richard Shelby donated a total of $29,000 to Coleman’s campaign.

For the final fundraising period, Coleman raised $328,502, while Moore raised $92,343.

Roby officially announced her endorsement for Coleman on Thursday citing Coleman’s dedication to limited government.

“I fully support Jeff Coleman to be our next Congressman,” Roby said. “Jeff Coleman is a businessman who supports cutting government regulation and lowering taxes to help grow a strong economy. Jeff strongly supports our men and women serving in uniform, as well as our veterans.”

Moore released a statement on Thursday about the endorsement attempting to label Roby as anti-Trump.

“While we appreciate Martha’s service, let’s remember that she has been part of the establishment in Washington for a long time–the same swamp President Trump has been trying to drain,” Moore said in an emailed statement. “The people of District 2 will always remember that Martha Roby turned her back on Donald Trump when he needed us most.”

Roby withdrew her support for Trump when an Access Hollywood tape revealed Trump bragging about getting away with sexual assault of women. In October 2016, Roby said Trump’s words were “unacceptable” and wouldn’t vote for him. She did support the Trump agenda in Congress and the president went on to endorse Roby over Moore and former Congressman Bobby Bright for re-election campaign in 2018.

Both Coleman and Moore would like to serve on the House Armed Services Committee if elected considering that the district is home to both Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass and Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.

Moore says his experience being a veteran and former chairman of military and veterans affairs for Alabama makes him well equipped for the job.

“I carried more bills to help our active duty and veterans than anyone in my class,” Moore said.

Coleman says he retains close ties with the military with his moving company specializing in military family transport, and he was named special Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for south Alabama in 2018. He also faced criticism with his company’s 2013 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice after accusations that some of his employees were overcharging the U.S. Department of Defense when relocating military personnel.

Coleman has since said that the prosecution was politically motivated and said his company later fired the warehouse manager who was convicted of fraud.

Creating jobs and helping economic growth is a top concern for Coleman and he says that starts with uplifting the education system.

“As a job creator, as somebody that understands the business world and economic development, I think I have an opportunity to go to Washington and put forth legislation and initiatives that will bring excellent quality jobs to the second district,” Coleman said.

Coleman has the endorsement of major business and trade groups, including the Business Council of Alabama, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Alabama Farmers Federation,  the Alabama Realtors Association and the Alabama Homebuilders Association.

Moore’s endorsements have some from the activist side of the party, including the Eagle Forum, the Alabama Republican Assembly and the House Freedom Fund.

Coleman won 38% of the vote in the March 3 GOP Primary, with Moore securing a spot in the runoff with 21% of the vote.

The winner on Tuesday will face Democratic nominee Phyliss Harvey-Hall in the November general election.

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