Alabama voters may be finally tiring of Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the state supreme court who gained fame in Religious Right circles after he defied a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state judicial building.
Moore was booted from the court after his defiance and shortly after that announced his intention to challenge incumbent Gov. Bob Riley in the Republican primary.
Early polls showed that Moore had a shot at success. Voters were unhappy over Riley’s support for a tax increase and seemed open to a change. But anger over the tax issue faded, and Moore’s extreme views quickly wore thin.
Results from the June 6 GOP primary must have been sobering for Moore. He didn’t just lose, he was trounced. Voters rejected his candidacy, 67 percent to 33 percent.
During the race, Moore tried to mobilize the Religious Right by attacking Americans United, which cosponsored the legal case against his Commandments display. (See “Commandment from the Court,” September 2003 Church & State.)
In December, Moore’s campaign sent a fund-raising letter signed by his wife asserting that AU and the American Civil Liberties Union “will stop at nothing to keep Roy Moore out of the Governor’s office in Alabama!” The effort fell flat when AU pointed out that, as a non-profit organization, it could not legally intervene in the race.
Political analysts said Moore had failed to expand his base beyond a handful of far-right social conservatives obsessed with the Commandments issue. A few weeks before the election, with Moore trailing in the polls by 50 percent, NBC political reporter Mark Murray wrote a column speculating that many Alabamians had begun to see Moore as a one-trick pony.
Murray also noted that when Moore tried to go beyond culture war issues, he often embarrassed himself. Observed Murray, “Another reason is that Moore has committed some embarrassing gaffes. He recently suggested that the first case of mad cow disease in the state was a conspiracy to help pass a state animal identification system.”
The same day Moore went down to defeat, a slate of candidates closely tied to him was also rejected. Several Moore allies launched campaigns to unseat incumbent GOP Alabama Supreme Court members. Most fared poorly.
Associate Justice Tom Parker, who acted as Moore’s spokesman during the Ten Commandments fight, failed in his effort to unseat Chief Justice Drayton Nabers Jr. Three Parker allies, Ben Hand, Alan Zeigler and Hank Fowler, also failed to oust incumbents. During the race, the four embraced extreme views, arguing that state courts need not follow precedents set by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A few days after the election, one Alabama political analyst opined that even the state’s religious voters got tired of Moore constantly playing the religion card.
This latest defeat may spell the end for Moore as a political force in the state. During a GOP primary in 2004, four candidates tied to Moore sought state and federal offices. Only one was victorious.