Meet the Alabama Senate candidates: Controversial gun-toting judge Roy Moore and a lawyer who fought the KKK

The election for Jeff Sessions' old seat will be held Dec. 12.

September 27, 2017, 1:33 PM

— -- After Roy Moore’s resounding victory over Sen. Luther Strange last night in Alabama’s GOP Senate primary runoff, the attention shifts to the Dec. 12 general election, between Moore and the Democratic nominee, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones.

Moore, bolstered by a bevy of conservative outsiders like former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was able to overcome both President Donald Trump’s endorsement of his opponent and a barrage of outside money spent by a super PAC linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to win on Tuesday.

Jones, who was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1997 as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, has the backing of former Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., but faces an uphill battle to win in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1992. Biden will visit Alabama on Oct. 3 to headline a rally for Jones in Birmingham.

Here’s a look at both candidates’ roads to vying to be a U.S. senator from Alabama.

Roy Moore

In his nearly three decades in the public eye, Moore has never been one to shy away from controversy or confrontation.

He gained national attention for his dogged and bombastic defense of Christianity’s role in the U.S. political system.

Moore was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for defying judicial orders.

In 2003 he was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for “willfully and publicly” defying the orders of a U.S. district court to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments on display a state judicial building.

In 2012, Moore was re-elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, only to be suspended in 2016 for ordering state probate judges to continue enforcing the state’s ban on same-sex marriages even after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized them nationwide.

In April of this year he announced his candidacy for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general, and his candidacy thus far indicates he has no desire to temper his controversial rhetoric or beliefs.

In speeches and radio appearances discovered by CNN, Moore speculated as recently as December 2016 that there was a “big question” about whether former President Barack Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen.

In a speech at an Alabama church this February, Moore suggested that the 9/11 terrorist attacks may have been the result of the U.S. turning away from God.

This month Moore again caused controversy after he appeared to refer to Native Americans and Asians as “reds” and “yellows” in a campaign speech.

Doug Jones

Jones, a staffer for Howell Heflin when he was a senator from the state, was nominated by Bill Clinton to be the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in September 1997 and was confirmed by a voice vote in the Senate two months later.

Shortly after Jones’ appointment, the federal government reopened its investigation into the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, carried out by four KKK members, which killed four young African-American girls.

One of the suspects, Robert Chambliss, was convicted of murder in 1977, but the case was reopened against two other suspects: Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry. Blanton was convicted in 2001, and Cherry was found guilty a year later.

Jones was also involved in the prosecution of Eric Rudolph, whose 1998 attack on a Birmingham abortion clinic killed an off-duty police officer. Rudolph was convicted in 2005, after Jones left office.

Jones announced his Senate run in May — his first attempt to win public office.

Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Richard Shelby was re-elected in 1992. He switched affiliation to the GOP in 1994 and still holds that seat.

After Moore’s victory over Strange, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other Democratic groups sent out statements in support of Jones, signaling more national support heading his way.

“Doug Jones is a man of character and integrity who is unafraid to stand up for what’s right and has a proven record of independence that will serve Alabama families in the U.S. Senate,” DSCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen wrote in a statement Tuesday night.

“Doug subscribes to the founders’ immortal declaration that all men and women are created equal and as such, he has always put people over party,” the DNC statement read. “And he’ll bring that same integrity and tenacity to Washington when Alabamians elect him to serve as their next senator in December’s special election.”

In a statement after Moore’s victory, Jones said, “The people of Alabama deserve a senator who will put aside partisan rancor and address the real needs facing the people of this state. I understand the importance of bipartisanship.”

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