The Alabama Republican Party decided not to disqualify Roy Moore’s Senate candidacy at a Wednesday night meeting, likely ending the GOP’s best hope to get rid of Moore before the Dec. 12 election.
After hours of tense deliberation, the 21 members of the state party’s steering committee decided not to do anything for the time being — rejecting arguments from some who wanted to pull their support from Moore as well as Moore loyalists who wanted the party to issue a public statement defending him.
That do-nothing approach means the party is still behind Moore — and has no plans to un-endorse him, the only way they could make almost certain Moore won’t become Alabama’s next senator. If they had disqualified him, under Alabama law, he’d still be on the ballot but any votes for him wouldn’t count.
That (non)decision, confirmed by TPM, comes after Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan warned earlier this week that any Republicans pledging to oppose Moore or back a write-in could be thrown out of the party and denied ballot access — a major threat to the quarter of the steering committee’s members, who are running for local office next year.
It never looked likely that the group would move to ditch Moore — crossing his rabid in-state supporters could be political suicide for many on the committee, and hurt their careers. But its members’ cautious approach forecloses on the best chance for the party to rid itself of Moore, who has adamantly refused to drop out even as the list of women who accuse him of unwanted groping, sexual overtures when they were teenagers and sexual assault grew to nine people Wednesday night.
That decision comes as national Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) grow increasingly desperate in their quest to find a way out of the no-win situation, where Moore either loses and costs them a must-have Senate seat or wins and comes to Washington a toxic figure that will further damage the party brand ahead of 2018 and give McConnell regular headaches.
McConnell’s team is assessing the legal feasibility of convincing appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) to quit the race now in order to let Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) call a new special election at a later date.
But that plan seems like an even longer shot than previously discussed plans to push a write-in candidate. Strange told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that he won’t resign and plans to finish his term. And even if McConnell could convince Strange to do otherwise, Ivey has repeatedly said she will not move the Dec. 12 election — and has also said if Strange does resign she’d just appoint a caretaker to the seat until the December election’s winner can be sworn in.
“The election date is set for Dec. 12. Were he to resign I would simply appoint somebody to fill the remaining time until we have the election on Dec. 12,” Ivey told AL.com.
And even if Ivey and Strange change their minds and go along, experts say the move may not even be constitutional.