MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Sen. Luther Strange on Tuesday launched his first salvo against challenger Roy Moore in the contentious Senate race, calling Moore a hypocrite “who has spent 40 years putting himself and his ambition ahead of Alabamians.”

The remarks contained in a news release mark the campaign’s first direct attack against the former chief justice in the Republican runoff in the race for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat.

Strange’s campaign emphasized his endorsement from President Donald Trump and said voters have a “clear choice” in the Sept. 26 runoff.

“Luther Strange has a record of draining the Montgomery swamp and putting corrupt politicians behind bars. Roy Moore, on the other hand, has spent the last forty years running for political office and putting his own ambitions ahead of Alabamians’ well-being,” the campaign wrote.

Among other things, Strange’s campaign accused Moore of giving raises to high-ranking assistants when the court system faced financial problems and layoffs. Strange’s campaign said Strange is “President Trump’s conservative fighter.”

Moore’s campaign fired back that the Strange camp was “long on claims and short on truth.”

“Honestly, this just reeks of a desperate attempt to hold on to his political appointment at all costs,” Moore’s campaign wrote in a lengthy response.

Moore led Strange by 25,000 votes, or about 6 percentage points, in the crowded August Republican primary. As he attempts to make up the deficit, Strange’s tactic has been to emphasize his record as attorney general and endorsement from Trump.

The back-and-forth signaled what is expected to be an antagonistic four-week runoff race.

Moore was twice removed from his position as chief justice, once for defying a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments’ monument from the state judicial building. After being elected again, he was permanently suspended last year after a judicial discipline panel ruled he urged probate judges to deny marriage licenses to gay couples in defiance of the federal courts.

Moore, who was endorsed last week by former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, has embraced his outsider status as he seeks to maintain his lead over Strange and secure the GOP nomination.

Moore has hammered at Strange’s support from a super PAC tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “There’s a Washington crowd trying to buy this election,” Moore told the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee on Saturday.