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Shelby and Moore still feuding: Shelby says Sessions would “Clear the field”

Roy Moore speaks to reporters and supporters
Roy Moore is surrounded by supporters and media after leaving the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday October 27, 2016. (Mickey Welsh/Pool Photo)

Today, in Montgomery, former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) is expected to announce that he will be a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Ahead of that expected announcement, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) told reporters, “I think Alabama could do better,” when asked about Moore running for the U.S. Senate.

Judge Moore fired back at Shelby on Twitter.

“If Senator Richard Shelby would have stayed out of the 2017 race, Doug Jones would not be in the Senate now!” Moore said. “The people of Alabama already know what he did in 2017, obviously he feels guilty about helping elect a Democrat. What’s he really afraid of?”

Shelby said that Moore winning the Republican nomination would make it hard for Republicans to win the seat back.

“For a lot of reasons known to you and everybody else…I think Alabama could do better,” Shelby said.

Shelby floated the possibility of former Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) running again.

“I talked to him before. If he got in the race he would be very formidable,” Shelby said.

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Shelby said that Sessions has not made a decision on whether or not to run again.

“He hasn’t said to me yes or no,” Shelby said. “But he’s a good friend.”

Shelby told the Washington Post that a Sessions candidacy would, “probably clear the field.”

Shelby said of Moore, the “people of Alabama will have a choice. I hope they’ll make the right one.”

Much of the Washington establishment is urging Moore not to enter the race. National Republican Senate Committee Chair Corey Gardner (R-Colorado) said that the NRSC would not support Moore if he was the nominee and suggested that the fund, which is supposed to be used to elect Republicans to the Senate could get involved in the GOP primary.

This is all eerily similar to the 2017 special election where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reportedly urged then Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) to appoint then Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) to the vacancy created by Sessions appointment as President Donald J. Trump’s U.S. Attorney General.

McConnell, Gardner, and Karl Rove, who manages the National Republican Senate Leadership campaign for McConnell, and their Washington allies then poured $50 million into Strange’s campaign.

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Just about everybody in Alabama would have preferred almost anyone; but Strange; whom they believed (rightly or wrongly) had been appointed Senator by Bentley in exchange for dropping his investigation of the Governor. That Bentley later resigned under threat of impeachment only hardened this view, despite there never being any actual evidence for it.

Undaunted, Strange pursued election to the Senate seat he had been appointed to fill. Backed by his powerful Washington friends, Strange outspent the entire field, including Moore ten to one. Trump even came to Alabama to campaign for Strange against Moore and Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) who finished third in the primary. It was never enough to stop the Moore tidal wave. “Big Luther” was left on stage at his debate with Moore saying that Donald Trump was his friend and sheepishly repeating “He picked me.” Alabama Republican primary runoff voters were not impressed; and Moore bested Strange in a runoff election that was always predictable in its outcome.

Moore appeared to be cruising to a predictably easy ten-point win over former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones until the Washington Post presented allegations of sexual misconduct by Moore, then a single Etowah County Deputy District Attorney in the 1970s.

McConnell and Shelby said that they found the allegations against Moore “credible” and urged Moore to step aside so that the Alabama Republican State Steering Committee could appoint a more suitable replacement candidate.

Shelby and McConnell had both previously ignored more serious and recent accusations by a number of women against Trump during the 2016 campaign.  Ten months after the Moore special election both voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court even though there were women claiming that a teenage Kavanaugh abused young ladies at drunken parties in the 1980s.

Moore refused their advice.

Shelby then took the unprecedented step of urging Republican voters to write in anybody but Moore on the special general election ballot.

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Democratic strategists seized on the write-in idea and created thousands of fake social media identities claiming that they were Alabama Republicans who could never vote for Moore. Meanwhile, national Democrats poured over $20 million into the state for Jones.

The dark arts tactics, first used in the 2016 presidential campaign, were exposed afterwards by the New York Times and Washington Post.  The tech billionaire who financed the operation has apologized and the effort, which has been widely condemned even by Jones; who called for a federal investigation of the social media tactics. Jones says that he was unaware of what the Democratic operatives were doing on his behalf and disputes the claim by some Moore supporters that the effort was responsible for his victory.

Some Moore supporters blame Shelby, including apparently Moore himself, for the 2017 defeat. There was even an effort by some to censure the senior Senator at the Alabama Republican Executive Committee’s 2018 Winter Meeting over it. Cooler heads prevailed and that motion was defeated.

Shelby suggested that there were other options, outside of Sessions.

“I think we’ve got a lot of talent in Alabama that maybe could come to the front,” he said.

Moore will announce his plans this afternoon.

(Original reporting by the Washington Post, Fox News, and the Hill contributed to this report.)

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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