Former Alabama Supreme Court justice Roy Moore on Sept. 26 defeated Republican rival Luther Strange to win the GOP nod for the state’s U.S. Senate seat, putting Moore in a strong position to win the slot in this deeply conservative state.
The seat was vacated by Jeff Sessions when President Donald Trump appointed him to be U.S. Attorney General. Strange was appointed to fill the seat temporarily (to the end of this year) by former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, just before Bentley resigned enmeshed in a sex scandal.
Although Strange was supported by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Moore, who was supported by Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, won with a resounding 55 percent to 45 percent and will face Democrat Doug Jones in December’s special election. Political analysts have predicted Moore will have the edge over Jones in so staunchly conservative a state.
The fact that Trump’s pick was defeated is causing reverberations in the GOP.
Moore’s victory “has immediate and potentially dire implications for the GOP’s slim working majority in the Senate,” wrote Sean Sullivan for The Washington Post. “The growing hostilities (within the party) threaten the effort by Senate GOP leaders to foster enough unity in their ranks to pass a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws – which they are wagering is the only thing left that can reverse the political damage the party has sustained this year. Moore is seen as a wild card who could complicate, if not derail, that task.”
Moore’s campaign antics have been closely scrutinized in recent months. His August interview with the news website Vox raised eyebrows when he claimed Sharia law was being practiced in American communities. He offered this claim without proof, which led the fact-checking website PolitiFact to give it a “pants on fire” rating.
During the interview, Moore also asserted that the First Amendment of the Constitution was intended to foster and protect Christianity.
On Oct. 11, The Washington Post revealed Moore had received an annual salary of $180,000 for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law, a nonprofit group he himself had founded, despite once saying he didn’t receive a salary from the group. The Post reported he collected more than $1 million over six years as the foundation’s president, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years.
Moore announced he would run for Sessions’ seat in April, just a week after he resigned from the Alabama Supreme Court. He’d been suspended from the court for violating judicial ethics when he told the state’s probate judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court ruling granting marriage equality, and instead to uphold Alabama’s nullified ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
It was Moore’s second time running afoul of judicial ethics. In 2001, Moore was sued by Americans United and other groups after he erected a two-ton Ten Commandments monument at the Judicial Building in Montgomery. A federal court ordered the religious structure removed. Moore openly defied the court and refused, resulting in his first removal from the state’s high court.