On Thursday, the Washington Post published an article alleging that Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of had had sexual relationships with four teen-age girls when he was in his thirties. These accusations completely roiled the election scheduled for December 12th.
Let’s recap the events leading up to this situation:
In February of this year, Alabama Republican Senator Jefferson Sessions resigned his seat after he was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate. A few days later, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange was appointed to Sessions’ vacant Senate seat by Governor Robert Bentley.
More than a few folks wondered aloud if just maybe Strange received the Senate seat as a quid pro quo for going easy on the governor, who soon resigned under threat of impeachment over accusations involving a sexual scandal and official misconduct. Strange had written a letter to the Alabama House Judicial Committee, asking that it halt its impeachment inquiry until his own investigation was completed.
To hold on to his seat, Senator Strange still had to run in a Republican primary, then a primary run-off in September, after which the winner would run in a special general election against a Democrat on December 12th.
Roy Moore, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, beat Senator Luther Strange by almost 10% in the Republican run-off primary.
In a poll conducted on November 6th, Moore led the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, by 11%. So Moore appeared to be the clear favorite to win the special election.
But then things began to get very… well, very strange.
In an explosive article published on November 9th in the Washington Post, a fifty-three-year-old woman revealed that she had had a sexual relationship with Roy Moore when she was fourteen and he was thirty-two. Three other women told the Post that they too had had intimate relationships with Moore, then in his thirties, when they were between sixteen and eighteen.
Although Moore emphatically denied these accusations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as several Republican Senators, demanded that Moore withdraw from the Alabama Senate race if these allegations were true. Moore denied them and said that he would remain in the race, although he may yet change his mind and drop out
Under Alabama election law, not only must Moore’s name remain on the ballot even if he does withdraw, but no other name may be added. Voters could, of course, support a write-in candidate. And Luther Strange is a pretty easy name to spell.
Had Strange won the run-off and been the Republican candidate, he too would probably have been strongly favored to beat Democrat Doug Jones. But Moore’s name remaining on the ballot greatly complicates things.
There continue to be hard feelings among some Republican primary voters. Many who support Moore may not be willing to vote for Strange. In fact, they might not even bother to vote. Still others, of course, will vote for Moore – whether or not he withdraws.
But consider an even, … well, stranger result. What if Moore stays in the race and wins? His supporters would be overjoyed. But how would Senator McConnell and the rest of the Republican caucus react?
Would they refuse to seat Senator-elect Roy Moore? Or would they hold their noses and allow him to join the Senate. As Yogi Berra liked to say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
About the Author
Steve Slavin has a PhD in economics from NYU, and taught for over thirty years at Brooklyn College, New York Institute of Technology, and New Jersey’s Union County College. He has written sixteen math and economics books including a widely used introductory economics textbook now in its eleventh edition (McGraw-Hill) and The Great American Economy (Prometheus Books) which was published in August.