Roy Moore—loser of a 2017 special election for an Alabama Senate seat after more than a half-dozen women accused him of predatory behavior, and maybe the only candidate to be controversial enough to win a Republican primary but lose the general election in the state—is back.
After Moore’s brutal loss to Doug Jones, many wondered if the nationally infamous figure would retreat to more low-profile evangelical politics in the state. It seems not. On Thursday, the 72-year-old Moore announced that he was running for the same seat again, aiming to unseat his former opponent.
“Can I win?” he said in his announcement. “Yes, I can win. Not only can I, they know I can. That’s why there’s such opposition.”
When asked why he thought he could run successfully when he lost the last time, he said he thought he had won the last election, but that job was only given to Jones because of election meddling and a “false flag operation.” This is in reference to the revelation last year that a small group with no known connection to Jones had launched a disinformation campaign on social media to harm Moore’s candidacy in 2017, but the campaign is thought to have been too small to have made any significant difference. (Jones himself has condemned the tactics and called for an investigation.)
This news doesn’t automatically mean we’ll see a Moore-Jones rematch. Alabama voters could become nervous about the idea of putting forward a candidate who has proven he can lose to a Democrat, and they may go for a safer option. Already, several Republican candidates (including former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville) have announced their bids. But if there’s one thing Moore can do, it’s turn out his evangelical base, which has proven extremely loyal to the man it sees as crusading to bring Christian values to state politics and whom it believes to be a victim of vicious liberal smear campaigns. He’s also likely to benefit from the higher voter turnout in a general election year, compared with 2017’s special election, when, it’s assumed, many Republican voters who found voting for Moore distasteful stayed home.
Moore may not benefit this time from the support of President Donald Trump, who in 2017 backed the Republican in his general election against Jones. Trump and other national Republican leaders have recently voiced concerns about the idea of Moore running again, as many consider Moore’s history of sexual assault allegations to be bad for the party’s image. Trump tweeted last month that Moore “cannot win” and that Republicans need to retake the seat.
“Why is there such a hatred to somebody running?” Moore said in his announcement. “Is it because I believe in God and the right of a baby in the womb to have a life? Are these things embarrassing to you?”
Two years ago, Moore’s campaign seemed destined to succeed, as a Republican victory is considered a virtual guarantee in the deeply red state. But his campaign began to unravel when the Washington Post reported allegations by several women of sexual misconduct in the 1970s, when they were teenagers and Moore an adult in his 30s. According to the women, Moore, as an assistant district attorney, kissed and groped a young teenager over her underwear on a date. Another said he groped her and tried to force her head toward his crotch when she was 15. He allegedly told her, as she was crying, “You are a child. I am the district attorney of Etowah County. If you tell anyone about this, no one will believe you.” Moore has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct.
If you need more of a refresher on this guy, here are some Moore-related moments you might have missed:
• In 2003, Moore lost his seat as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court after a federal court ordered him to remove a 5,280-pound granite monument depicting the Ten Commandments from the Alabama State Judicial Building. He refused.
• In 2005, and again in 2010, he ran for governor. He lost both times.
• In 2012, he ran for chief justice of the Supreme Court again, and he won. This term also ended in conflict, as he was suspended for judicial misconduct for trying to repeatedly block same-sex marriage in the state in 2016.
• He appeared on Sacha Baron Cohen’s show Who Is America? in July 2018. He thought he was talking to an Israeli anti-terrorism expert, but Cohen spent the whole time mocking Moore by testing out a “pedophile detector” that kept lighting up as it got near Moore. Moore was not pleased, and he sued for $95 million.
• Moore founded a nonprofit called the Foundation for Moral Law dedicated to “Christian values.” In 2017, the Washington Post reported that Moore privately received a salary—obscured by “errors and gaps” in federal tax filings—of $180,000 a year for part-time work (and a total of more than $1 million from 2007 to 2012) from the charity, in an apparent violation of IRS rules. (The organization was actually founded to be a legal defense fund for Moore when he was fighting to keep the Ten Commandments monument.)
• He was a leading voice in the birther movement and has said, among other offensive and hateful comments, that “homosexual conduct” should be illegal, that Muslims should not be allowed in Congress, and that there was “Sharia law” in Illinois and Indiana or somewhere “up there.” He also called Native Americans and Asian Americans “reds and yellows.”
Another memorable moment from Moore’s Senate race: When he lost, he refused to concede, insisting, with no evidence, that there was “systemic voter fraud.” We can assume that even if Moore loses the primary or general elections, he won’t go down without a fight.