Roy Moore, the extremely anti-LGBT former chief justice of Alabama, has advanced to a runoff election for the Republican nomination for U.S. senator from the state.
At about 9 p.m. local time, the Associated Press called Moore and current Sen. Luther Strange as the top two candidates in today’s primary election. They will compete in a runoff September 26 because neither received a majority of the vote. When the election was called, Moore had 40 percent, Strange 32 percent, according to The New York Times. Congressman Mo Brooks was a distant third with 20 percent.
Strange, who had been Alabama’s attorney general, was appointed by outgoing Gov. Robert Bentley earlier this year to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who became U.S. attorney general under Donald Trump, on a temporary basis until a special election could be held. New Gov. Kay Ivey, who succeeded Bentley when he resigned due to a sex scandal, called the special election for this year.
The Democratic nominee, who will face either Moore or Strange December 12, is Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor, who received a clear majority in his primary, about 64 percent as of 9 p.m. local time. His closest competitor, business executive Robert Kennedy (no relation to the famous political family), had just 18.5 percent. Both primary races were crowded, with nine Republicans and eight Democrats running.
Moore is famous, or infamous, for his anti-LGBT stances, especially his efforts to block same-sex marriages in Alabama after a federal district judge and then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. He contended the federal courts had no jurisdiction over marriage. As a result of his resistance, ethics charges were filed against him, and a special court removed him this year as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
He had been removed once before, in 2003, for his refusal to take down a Ten Commandments monument at the state courthouse — an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state. In Alabama, where members of the Supreme Court are elected, voters returned him to the position in 2012.
Moore built his career on far-right positions, especially opposition to LGBT rights and abortion. He has said that marriage equality will “literally cause the destruction of our country or lead to the destruction of our country over the long run”; that transgender people have a mental disorder; and that actions against opponents of marriage equality are similar to the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. In the primary, he had the backing of such prominent right-wing voices as actor and columnist Chuck Norris and Christian conservative leader James Dobson.
Strange had the support of President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. While his rhetoric has not been as outrageous as Moore’s, he is no champion of LGBT rights. “As a leader in the Republican Attorney General Association (at the time of his Senate appointment he was chairman-elect) he helped spearhead legal opposition to the Obama administration’s policies on immigration, environmental protection, health care, and LGBT rights,” reports The New Republic.
Jones is pro–LGBT rights, and some fellow Democrats have expressed “cautious optimism” that he can win the race even in deeply conservative Alabama, according to Slate. He was an aide to the state’s last Democratic U.S. senator, Howell Heflin, and when Bill Clinton was president, he appointed Jones U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. In that position, “Jones successfully prosecuted Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry, two Ku Klux Klan members involved in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four girls but had never faced justice,” Slate notes.
“We have conceded too many races,” he told the publication, adding, “We think this can be a transformational race.”