Political News

Roy Moore's path toward the Senate paved with controversy

Posted December 10, 2017 3:31 p.m. EST

— On Tuesday, Alabamans will finally decide who is going to be their next US senator.

For more than a month, coverage of the race has largely been dominated by Roy Moore and accusations that he pursued relationships with teenagers, sexually abused a 14-year-old and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old when he was in his 30s. Moore has repeatedly denied the allegations.

But the accusations against the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court are only the latest scandal to hit Alabama politics. Last year, a sex scandal forced the state's governor, Robert Bentley, from office.

In some ways, that scandal -- which raised questions about Bentley's decision to appoint Moore's main primary opponent, Luther Strange, to the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became US attorney general -- set the stage for this week's election.

Before Moore goes head-to-head with Democrat Doug Jones on Tuesday, catch up on the events that have brought us to this point.

Former Alabama governor caught up in sex scandal, March 2016

The story begins in March 2016. Several months after his wife of 50 years divorced him, Bentley becomes mired in a sex scandal involving one of his top political aides, Rebekah Mason. Audio of Bentley making explicit comments to Mason -- recorded two years earlier by his then-wife -- is published by AL.com. Bentley admits it's his voice on the tapes, but both he and Mason deny they had a "physical affair."

Roy Moore suspended as Alabama Chief Justice, September 2016

As Bentley deals with the fallout over his scandal, another controversy unfolds for Alabama's chief justice.

On September 30, Moore is suspended without pay for the remainder of his term because of an order he made prohibiting probate judges to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Moore's order came in January 2016, months after the US Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage. Moore appealed the decision.

Moore had previously been vocal about his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage. Following the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Moore said the ruling was "even worse" than the high court's 19th century decision to uphold racial segregation.

Bentley appoints Luther Strange to the Senate, February 2017

Hours before Sen. Sessions is sworn in as Trump's attorney general, Bentley appoints state Attorney General Strange to fill Sessions' seat.

The appointment prompts further controversy, and critics say there's a conflict of interest because Strange's office is believed to be investigating Bentley in connection to the sex scandal.

Bentley also declines to order a statewide special election to replace Sessions, despite an Alabama statute saying that, in the event of a vacancy for US senator, the governor will "forthwith order an election to be held." He cites the potential expense to the state and taxpayers when justifying the decision, and decides to let Strange hold the position until the next scheduled election in 2018.

Bentley forced out, replaced by Kay Ivey, April 2017

Only two months later, Bentley is under siege. An explosive report from the state House Judiciary Committee's special counsel accuses Bentley of abusing his power and using state resources to cover up his alleged relationship with Mason.

On April 10, amid pressure, Bentley cuts a plea deal and resigns as Alabama's governor. He is succeeded by his lieutenant governor, Kay Ivey.

Ivey calls special election, April 2017

On April 18, Ivey, who had "promised to steady our ship of state," announces the dates for the special election that Bentley had decided to forgo. Strange, who had already announced his intention to run in 2018, says he will campaign in the special election.

Alabama Supreme Court upholds decision to bar Moore, April 2017

The very next day, the Alabama Supreme Court upholds the decision by the Court of the Judiciary to suspend Moore from the state's high court. Moore -- technically still an Alabama Supreme Court justice -- says he will announce a decision about the Senate race the following week.

Roy Moore resigns, announces bid for Senate, April 2017

On April 26, Moore officially resigns from the Alabama Supreme Court and announces his decision to run for the US Senate. "My position has always been God first, family, then country," he said on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery. "I think I share, and I know I share, the vision of our President, Donald Trump, to make America great again."

Because Alabama state law prohibits judges from running for another office, Moore would have had to resign from the bench in the middle of his appeal to run for Senate. But because a special election wasn't called until Bentley stepped down, Moore was able to see the result of his appeal before making the decision to pursue Sessions' vacant Senate seat.

Trump endorses Strange in race, August 2017

On August 8, days before the Republican primary, Trump tweets his endorsement of Strange.

"Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama," Trump writes. "He has my complete and total endorsement!"

It's later reported that Trump made the endorsement at the behest of his aides and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who consolidated the GOP establishment behind Strange. Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon later endorses Moore.

Moore beats Strange in primary runoff, September 2017

Despite the President's support, on September 26, Republicans in the Yellowhammer state throw their support behind Moore instead of Strange. Ultimately, Strange's opponents used the circumstances of his appointment by Bentley as a bludgeon against him, painting him as corrupt.

Moore is officially headed to face Democrat Doug Jones, who won the Democratic primary on August 15.

Moore battered by allegations of sexual assault, November 2017

The Washington Post publishes a bombshell report on November 9 alleging Moore had pursued relationships with teenagers -- including one as young as 14 years old, who alleged she had a sexual encounter with Moore -- while he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s. The legal age of consent in Alabama is 16. The story is based on interviews with more than 30 sources. Since the publication of the initial report, multiple women have come forward accusing the candidate of unwanted advances.

Moore denies the allegations, calling them "completely false," and threatens to sue the Post over the story.

Trump fully endorses Moore, December 2017

Almost a full month after Moore had come under fire, imperiling his chance to win the Senate seat, Trump calls Moore and endorses the candidate. Trump later frames a vote for Moore as something necessary to usher the GOP agenda through the US Senate.

"Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama," he tweeted.

"No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!"

The Republican National Committee, which withdrew financial support from Moore's campaign in November, isn't far behind, and endorses Moore as well.

All eyes on Alabama

On Friday night, Trump continued to stump for Moore, telling attendees of his rally in Pensacola, Florida, 25 miles from the Alabama state line, to "get out and vote Roy Moore."

Moore again denied the allegations against him Sunday in an interview on "The Voice of Alabama Politics."

"I did not know them," he said of his accusers. "I had no encounter with them. I never molested anyone, and for them to say that, I don't know why they're saying it, but it's not true."

Now, after months of scandal and controversy, all eyes turn toward Alabama, where Moore and Jones will face off on Tuesday.