Alabama Republican Roy Moore, whose 2017 U.S. Senate bid was derailed by allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct involving teenage girls, said on Thursday he would run again for the seat next year, defying his party's leadership.
The prospect of a rematch between Moore – a conservative former judge who cultivated controversy even before the salacious allegations against him – and U.S. Senator Doug Jones – widely considered the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in 2020 – had gotten pushback from Republican Party leaders, including President Donald Trump.
"If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost," Trump wrote on Twitter last month. "Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating!"
Moore embraced his status as an outsider on Thursday, criticizing "Washington Republicans" for trying to influence the Alabama race and listing numerous members of his party who have already declared their opposition to his candidacy.
"Why does the mere mention of my name cause people to get up in arms in Washington, D.C.?" he said at a news conference in Montgomery, Alabama. "Is it because I'm a staunch conservative?"
Democrats need a net gain of three seats in 2020 to win a majority in the 100-seat Senate. Trump won Alabama in 2016 by nearly 30 percentage points.
Jones became the first Democratic senator from Alabama in decades when he narrowly won a special election after Moore, 72, was accused of pursuing sexual relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s, including one girl as young as 14. He has denied all the allegations.
Jones' victory came in a special election to fill the seat held by Jeff Sessions before Sessions was named U.S. attorney general by Trump. The November 2020 election is for a full six-year term.
Moore still enjoys a base of support in the deeply Republican state, particularly among evangelical voters.
Before running for the Senate, he was twice removed as the state's chief judge – once for refusing a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the judicial building and once for barring same-sex marriages despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing them.
In announcing his bid, Moore returned to the fiery rhetoric for which he is known, insisting that his actions in both cases were justified and promising to put God at the center of his campaign.
In 2017, before the sexual misconduct allegations came to light, Moore prevailed in a nominating election over Republican incumbent Luther Strange, who had the support of the party establishment. A super PAC affiliated with Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, spent millions of dollars boosting Strange's candidacy.
© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.
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