One of Alabama’s most powerful Republicans said Tuesday that the state GOP should pull its nomination of Senate candidate Roy Moore.
“If they pull him then they have another candidate. I said I’d like to see another candidate,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told TPM when pressed on whether the state party should un-endorse Moore and back a write-in candidate.
That’s a step farther than Shelby had previously been willing to go. On Monday he’d told TPM it was a decision for state steering committee, which plans to meet later this week to determine Moore’s fate.
The 21-member committee of local Republicans is the only group with any real power to kill Moore’s campaign. According to state law, it’s too late to pull Moore off the ballot, but if the state GOP withdraws its endorsement that disqualifies any votes for him and would let the party rally around a write-in.
Shelby isn’t beloved by many in the Alabama Republican Party’s conservative wing. He had to ward off a primary challenge last election cycle, and some Moore supporters were furious he backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) over Moore in this year’s primary. But he’s one of the few left in the state party with major sway, and is by far the highest profile Alabama Republican to publicly say the party should cut Moore loose. His support for doing so could help nervous Republicans on the committee to stand up and fight to have him removed against the members on the committee who want to stick by Moore.
Shelby’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) publicly floated the idea that Attorney General Jeff Sessions might come back to run for his old seat as he talked up a write-in option. Sessions may be the only Republican in the state with enough goodwill on the right to cobble together a coalition for a write-in campaign, but sources close to him told TPM on Monday that he’s been telling Alabama Republicans he’s not interested in leaving the Department of Justice to return to the Senate.
For his part, Moore remains defiant:
— Judge Roy Moore (@MooreSenate) November 14, 2017