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Alabama Republican Roy Moore running for U.S. Senate again in 2020

Alabama Republican Roy Moore, whose 2017 U.S. Senate bid was derailed by allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct involving teenage girls, announced on Thursday he will run again for the seat next year, defying his party's leadership.

Moore lost the 2017 bid amidst allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied

Roy Moore, former chief justice for Alabama, announces his run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate on Thursday in Montgomery, Ala. Moore says he's capable of winning, despite pushback from fellow Republicans. (Julie Bennett/Associated Press)

Alabama Republican Roy Moore, whose 2017 U.S. Senate bid was derailed by allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct involving teenage girls, announced on Thursday he will run again for the seat next year, defying his party's leadership.

With his return to the political stage, Moore faces a crowded Republican primary field as he aims for an eventual rematch against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who bested him in the 2017 special election to fill the seat previously held by Jeff Sessions. 

"I believe in America," Moore said during his announcement. "I believe we've got to have politicians that go to Washington and do what they say."

The prospect of a rematch between Moore, a conservative former judge who cultivated controversy even before the salacious allegations against him, and Jones, widely considered the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent in 2020, has received pushback from Republican Party leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump.

Some state and national Republicans, worried that Moore is too polarizing and could jeopardize what should otherwise be a reliable Republican seat, have discouraged him from entering the race. Republicans see retaking the Alabama seat as a top priority in 2020.

"He can do what he wants to, but we're certainly going to oppose him in every way," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said in a brief interview with The Associated Press before Moore's announcement.

Trump tweeted last month that Moore "cannot win" and said Republicans need to retake the seat in the once reliably red state.

Moore brushed aside that criticism Thursday, arguing he could indeed win. He says establishment Republicans don't want him in the Senate.

"Why does the mere mention of my name cause people to get up in arms in Washington, D.C.?" he said at a news conference in Montgomery, Ala. "Is it because I'm a staunch conservative?"

Democrats need a net gain of three seats in 2020 to win a majority in the 100-seat Senate. Trump won Alabama in 2016 by nearly 30 percentage points.

Democratic Sen. Doug Jones greets supporters during his election night gathering at the Sheraton Hotel in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 12, 2017. Jones defeated Moore to claim one of Alabama's two U.S. Senate seats. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Jones became the first Democratic senator from Alabama in decades when he narrowly won a special election after Moore, 72, was accused of pursuing romantic or sexual relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s, including one girl as young as 14. Two accused him of assault or molestation.

Moore denied the accusations and has said he considered his 2017 defeat, when he lost to Jones by 22,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast, "a fraud."

But he still enjoys a base of support in the deeply Republican state, particularly among evangelical voters.

Before running for the Senate, he was twice removed as the state's chief judge — once for refusing a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the judicial building and once for barring same-sex marriages despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing them.

In announcing his bid, Moore returned to the fiery rhetoric for which he is known, insisting that his actions in both cases were justified and promising to put God at the centre of his campaign.

A crowded Republican primary field is competing to challenge Jones. U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and legislator Arnold Mooney have already announced bids.

With files from The Associated Press

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