Roy Moore of Alabama has been twice elected to lead his state’s supreme court and twice thrown out of that position. The first time, in 2003, he refused to obey a federal court’s order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse in Montgomery. The voters of Alabama restored him, and in 2016, he was thrown off the bench again for refusing to implement the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage.
On Tuesday, a plurality of Alabama Republican voters picked Moore to be their candidate for U.S. Senate. With 99 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, Moore had 39 percent of the vote to 33 percent for the incumbent, Luther Strange, and 20 percent for Representative Mo Brooks. Moore and Strange will now advance to a runoff election for the Republican nomination next month. The winner will proceed to a general election against the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary, former federal prosecutor Doug Jones.
The first-place finish for the colorful Moore might not have even been the most remarkable aspect of the Republican primary, which played out as a fascinating allegory of the GOP’s new fault lines in the uncharted territory of the Trump era.
The special election is being held because the Senate seat’s former occupant, Jeff Sessions, was appointed attorney general by President Trump. In February, the Republican governor, Robert Bentley, appointed Strange to fill the vacancy. The fact that Strange was, at the time, the state attorney general overseeing a criminal investigation of the very same same scandal-tarred governor who had given him his ticket to Washington made many Alabamans smell a rat. Despite the specter of a quid pro quo in the style of the former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, nothing was ever proven; Bentley subsequently resigned.