Roy Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama, is favored to win the Republican primary Tuesday for the Senate nomination to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He is challenging the incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat in February by then-Gov. Robert Bentley. Strange is backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and by President Trump.
Despite the president’s support for Strange, polling indicates Moore will win easily — the latest Real Clear Politics polling average shows him with an 11-point margin — and in a deep red state, the Republican nomination is essentially a lock on the race, with all due respect to Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee.
When Trump called in to an Alabama radio show Monday to promote Strange’s bid, he repeatedly mistakenly referred to Moore as “Ray.” Once corrected, he said it’s “not a good sign” that he didn’t know Moore’s name, and admitted, “I don’t know that much about Roy Moore.”
Actually, the president has more in common with Moore than he probably does with Strange, a fairly conventional establishment Republican. Trump and Moore have employed fiery rhetoric and doubled down on controversial positions, animating opponents but solidifying core supporters.
As soon as he entered public service, Moore made a splash. In 1992, he was appointed a judge on the 16th Circuit Court, and quickly installed a wooden plaque engraved with the Ten Commandments in the courtroom. He also began court proceedings with prayer. In 1999, after being elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he installed a 5,280-pound granite block carved with patriotic quotations and the Ten Commandments in the state Supreme Court building. After defying court orders to remove the monument, Moore was relieved of his position as chief justice.
Despite the controversy, Moore was elected chief justice again in 2012. In 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, Moore defiantly ordered judges to continue to enforce Alabama’s ban, leading to one of several ethics complaints that culminated in his suspension for the remainder of his term as chief justice, effectively ending his tenure.
Beyond not honoring same-sex marriages, Moore has also said “homosexual conduct” should be outlawed in a 2005 interview.
“Just because it’s done behind closed doors, it can still be prohibited by state law,” Moore elaborated, comparing same-sex relationships to bestiality.
Of course, his Senate campaign has seen no shortage of flare-ups. In February, Moore quoted the Bible to suggest the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could have been predicted as a result of the U.S.’s not being godly enough. He lamented the divisions between “blacks and whites” as well as “reds and yellows,” in an apparent slur. He told the Washington Post “there is no such thing as evolution.”
At an election-eve rally, Moore pulled a silver handgun from his pocket and brandished it on the podium, saying: “I believe in the Second Amendment.”