MONTGOMERY, AL ? AUGUST 21:  Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore walks back into the state Judicial Building after addressing supporters August 21, 2003 in Montgomery, Alabama.
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00:57 - Source: CNN

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It's highly unusual for a Cabinet secretary to break with the President on a Senate race

That's especially true in Alabama, where Strange has made loyalty to Trump key to his campaign

Washington CNN  — 

A member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet broke with him on Alabama’s Senate race just hours before Trump’s planned arrival in Huntsville.

Trump is set to campaign Friday night for Sen. Luther Strange, who next week faces former judge Roy Moore in a Republican runoff for the seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

But Ben Carson, the Housing and Urban Development secretary, released a statement through Moore’s campaign Friday praising the twice-removed former state Supreme Court justice.

“Judge Moore is a fine man of proven character and integrity, who I have come to respect over the years,” Carson said in the statement. “I was delighted to hear he is running for the US Senate. 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 in order to make America great again. I wish him well and hope everyone will make sure they vote on Tuesday.”

A sitting Cabinet secretary breaking with the President on a Senate race is highly unusual – and even more so in Alabama, where Strange has made loyalty to Trump the premise of his campaign.

Moore’s campaign touted Carson’s statement as “praise,” rather than as an “endorsement” – a careful choice of language intended to portray Carson’s position as personal, rather than in an official capacity.

When asked about Carson’s statement, HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan told CNN: “HUD can offer no guidance.”

The White House did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on whether Carson had notified the White House of his plans to support Moore.