Roy Moore, the former Alabama supreme court chief justice who lost one of the safest Republican seats in the Senate after being accused of sexually assaulting multiple teenage girls while he was in his thirties, thinks he can actually pull it off this time.
In a rambling speech in Montgomery on Thursday afternoon, the conservative Republican defiantly announced that he will seek the party’s nomination to unseat Sen. Doug Jones, who pulled off a shocking win in the 2017 special election to replace Jeff Sessions. His new Senate bid comes despite a warning from President Donald Trump he “cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating” for the Republican agenda if he were to try.
“I will run for the United States Senate in 2020,” said Moore, 72. “Can I win? Yes I can win.”
In the speech—which meandered from a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to remarks on Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election to George Soros spreading “false information” during the special election—Moore called the results of the 2017 election “fraudulent,” and said that after the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was himself accused of sexual misconduct before being confirmed to the Supreme Court, Alabama voters would realize that the allegations against him were false.
Asked by reporters after he announced his run, Moore protested that the allegations of sexual assault against him were “false claims,” and that he has taken a lie detector test proving his innocence.
Moore’s defeat by Jones was seen as a stunning rebuke of Trump, who initially endorsed Moore’s primary opponent Luther Strange before going all-in on supporting Moore, even after the candidate was accused of sexual misconduct by a half-dozen women, allegations that the president privately decided were false. The loss broke a decades-long winning streak for Republicans, and reduced the party’s majority in the Senate to a single vote.
Six women accused Moore of decades-old acts of sexual impropriety and assault, dating back to when Moore was an assistant district attorney in his early thirties. Residents of Gadsden, Alabama, told reporters that Moore was banned from the local mall in the 1980s for cruising on teenage girls, and that his pursuit of young women was well known.
One woman, Leigh Corfman, alleged that Moore kissed her, touched her over her bra and underwear, and attempted to put her hand on his crotch after two “dates” after she met him at a county courthouse. Corfman was 14 years old at the time.
Beverly Young Nelson alleged that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16, groping her breasts and attempting to force her head down to his crotch. According to Nelson, when Moore gave up in his attempts to force her into engaging in sexual activity, he told her: “You’re just a child, I’m the district attorney; if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.”
Moore denied the allegations at the time, and declared that the appearance of his signature and a note in Nelson’s yearbook was the result of tampering.
The allegations of sexual misconduct were particularly shocking given Moore’s longtime reputation as one of the state’s most aggressive warriors for traditional values, who built a decades-long legal career condemning “immoral” sexual behavior.
Moore joins a crowded Republican primary field hoping to face off with Jones, including Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, state legislator Arnold Mooney, and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.
Asked by reporters what he will do differently this campaign, Moore said that “I would like to make more personal contact with people.”