MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) — Roy Moore, the former Alabama chief justice known for his stands on same-sex marriage and a Ten Commandments monument, has won the Republican primary in a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Moore, a Southern Baptist, referenced God frequently during the campaign and his victory speech, according to media reports. His election night party Sept. 26 in Montgomery, Ala., included the singing of hymns like “How Great Thou Art.”
To make America great “we must make America good,” Moore said in his victory speech according to the news website AL.com. “And you cannot make America good without acknowledging the sovereign source of that goodness, the sovereign source of the law, liberty and government, which is almighty God.”
Moore, who spoke at churches across that state during the campaign, added that he “never prayed to win this campaign,” according to The New York Times, putting the election “in the hands of the Almighty.”
After finishing first in a 10-person GOP primary field in August, Moore faced Sen. Luther Strange in the runoff and defeated him by a 55-45 percent margin.
Strange, who was appointed to fill Sessions’ seat until the special election, had been endorsed by President Trump and Republican Senate leadership, leading some media outlets to report Moore’s victory as a slap at national party leaders.
But Joe Godfrey, leader of the Alabama Baptist Convention’s public policy auxiliary, said two local issues may have been more important in the election.
First, Godfrey told Baptist Press, some voters seemed to hold a “perception” that former Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Strange to the Senate “as a behind-the-scenes agreement” to stall an investigation into misconduct that eventually led Bentley to resign and plead guilty to multiple criminal charges. Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, noted a lack of evidence to support that perception.
Second, when Alabama’s Court of the Judiciary suspended Moore last year for the remainder of his term as chief justice, “he almost became a martyr in the minds of people” for taking a stand against same-sex marriage, Godfrey said. “I think there was a sense that ‘we’ll show them. We’re going to rally behind him and get him elected to the U.S. Senate.'”
In April, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld Moore’s suspension from office for advising the state’s 68 probate judges they had a duty not to issue same-sex marriage licenses until the Alabama Supreme Court clarified the relationship between state law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
In 2003, Moore was removed from office as chief justice for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments display from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was elected to the office again in 2012.
As Senate candidates, both Moore and Strange advocated positions on social issues that seemed consistent with the views of evangelical voters, Godfrey said.
“I know both of these men,” Godfrey said. “… And I believe both of them to be men of integrity and godly men. I think either one would be an excellent senator representing Alabama.”
Moore advances to face Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor, in a Dec. 12 general election. It has been 25 years since a Democrat last won a U.S. Senate general election in Alabama, according to The Times.