Former Judge Roy Moore announced Thursday he’ll run for the US Senate seat in Alabama again following his failed bid in 2017 after three women alleged he sexually abused them when they were teenagers decades ago.
In his announcement, Moore wondered why “there’s such a fear” over his candidacy, asking if it’s because of his conservative positions and religious views.
“I think there was so much opposition because they don’t want the truth in Washington,” said Moore of his last race. “I think they want to continue the status quo.”
The Senate Republicans’ official campaign organization views a Moore candidacy as the only thing that can come between them and defeating Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, their best pickup opportunity in the country. Rep. Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and state Rep. Arnold Mooney have already announced their campaigns. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill will soon announce his plans.
In 2017, Moore won the GOP nomination for a special election despite the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, spending millions of dollars against him and for then-Sen. Luther Strange, who had been appointed to fill former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat.
“We believe most Alabama Republicans realize that nominating Roy Moore would be gift wrapping this Senate seat for Chuck Schumer,” said SLF communications director Jack Pandol in a statement. “It remains to be seen whether Moore can escape his baggage without his candidacy collapsing under its own weight, regardless of what groups on the outside do.”
McConnell himself could not have been clearer in his on Thursday.
“We’ll be opposing Roy Moore vigorously,” he told reporters.
During the general election, Moore earned the high-profile support of President Donald Trump and Alabama Republican congressmen. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee cut ties with his campaign following the sexual assault allegations and then-NRSC chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, pledged to never support Moore again. Moore has denied the allegations and claimed that there was a “political conspiracy” against him.
Moore lost to Jones, a Democrat and former US attorney, by fewer than 2 points in a state that Trump won by 27.
Since then, he has lost the support of Republicans, including Trump’s. On Thursday, the President’s son, Donald Trump Jr., said on Twitter, “I can assure everyone that by running, Roy Moore is going against my father and he’s doing a disservice to all conservatives across the country in the process.”
Last month, Trump tweeted that Moore “cannot win” and the consequences of another loss would be “devastating.”
“I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win,” tweeted Trump. “But he didn’t, and probably won’t.”
In his press conference, Moore said he supports Trump and that the President will support him when he advances to the general election.
Moore has long been a controversial figure in the state. He was twice elected as Alabama chief justice but was removed both times, for installing a giant statue of the Ten Commandments in the state judicial building and for ordering lower court judges to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
“We have every right to recognize God,” Moore said. “That’ll be a main factor in my race.”
Several Alabama Republicans in Congress dismissed Moore’s candidacy. Rep. Mo Brooks has come out in favor of Mooney. Sen. Richard Shelby, Rep. Gary Palmer and Rep. Mike Rogers have all said Moore will lose.
“I strongly believe after going through the experience in 2017 that we need a better nominee,” Byrne told CNN last month. “We need somebody that can defeat Doug Jones and somebody that we can all feel good about voting for.”
In response to Moore’s announcement, Jones said his Republican opponent would be an “extremist” whether it’s Moore or one “handpicked by Mitch McConnell to be part of his legislative graveyard team.”
Jones tweeted, “Let’s get to work so we can get things done!”
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.