Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, who was removed from the bench twice and lost to Doug Jones in a 2017 U.S. Senate race after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, announced Thursday he is running for the Senate again in 2020.
Moore, 72, said in Montgomery he is confident of victory if what he characterized as election fraud, a smear campaign fueled by Democrats and collusion among Republicans can be neutralized.
“Everyone in Alabama knows that last election in 2017 was fraudulent,” Moore said in remarks streamed live on his Facebook page. “I would have won the last election if not for the false information put out there. I think it was done by Democratic operatives and there was also some Republican collusion. Can I win? Yes, I can win. The people of Alabama are tired of dirty politics and they are going to act on that anger. They’re tired of seeing politicians saying one thing and doing another.”
Moore will run against U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) and former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, among others, in the Republican primary for the right to face off against Jones, who in 2017 put one of the state’s two Senate seats in staunchly conservative Alabama back in Democratic hands for the first time since Howell Heflin 25 years before. Jones edged Moore by 1.6% or 22,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast.
Jones called Moore an “extremist” after Thursday’s announcement and had to jockey with Republicans, including President Donald Trump, to criticize Moore for his past actions, although accusations of sexual misconduct made by several women during the 2017 campaign have not been proven.
“Today, Roy Moore has made what was already going to be a divisive Republican primary even more polarizing and extreme,” Jones said in a statement. “We don’t need any more of that.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it clear he will continue to distance himself from Moore.
“He can do what he wants to but we’re certainly going to oppose him in every way,” McConnell told The Associated Press.
Jones quickly moved to capitalize on the chasm between Moore and the national GOP.
“It’s now clear that my opponent will either be an extremist like Roy Moore or someone handpicked by Mitch McConnell to be his Senator, not Alabama’s,” Jones said. “The only question left is who will be McConnell’s choice?”
Republicans remain concerned Moore will be a lightning rod for negativity that will hurt the party statewide and nationally.
“Alabama can do better than Roy Moore,” U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told The AP just prior to Moore’s announcement.
Trump recently tweeted “Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama.”
Despite Trump’s sentiments, Moore said he remains a Trump supporter.
“I’ll vote for President Trump,” Moore said. “He has a right to voice his opinion.”
Moore was elected twice as the state’s chief justice and was twice removed from office, the first time in 2003 for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building and again in 2016 after an ethics board ruled Moore defied federal court orders by ordering the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He also lost two races for governor.
Moore remains recalcitrant about the Ten Commandments monument controversy.
“I’ll argue with anybody about the legality” of the monument, Moore said. “We have every right to recognize God. That will be a main factor in my race. If we don’t, we lose our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Moore’s pursuit of the U.S. Senate seat took him through the Republican primary in 2017 but got derailed in the general election after accusations of sexual misconduct and dating teenage girls when he was in his 30s and while serving as an assistant district attorney. Moore again denied the accusations at Thursday’s press conference.
“I don’t know what they stand for,” he said of his female accusers. “I haven’t seen them. I haven’t heard from them. Where are they? We can’t question them. It’s false information.”
Moore said Thursday he doesn’t understand why he stirs such strong emotions from those who oppose him.
“Why is there such a fear, such an anger, why such a hatred, such an opposition to somebody running?” he asked. “Why does the mere mention of my name cause people to just get up in arms in Washington D.C.? Is it because I believe in God and marriage and morality in our country? Is it because I believe in the right of a baby in the womb to have a life? Are these things embarrassing to you? Is it because I stand up for the United States Constitution, for stronger borders and for the right to keep and bear arms?”