A Look At The Alabama Republican Senate Candidates

Sep 22, 2017
Originally published on September 22, 2017 6:08 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Let's meet the two Republicans who are running for U.S. Senate in Alabama. Their runoff election is Tuesday. It's a race that's drawn outsized money and attention. And President Trump has endorsed Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Then there's Roy Moore. He's the former Alabama chief justice known as the Ten Commandments judge. The first time his name was mentioned on this program was back in February 1997 in a story reported by NPR's Debbie Elliott.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: For as long as anyone can remember, a guest preacher has offered a prayer to open jury selection in Etowah County Circuit Court.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY MOORE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I think we've got a roomful here today. As we have always done in Etowah County, we're going to begin by opening with prayer. We have pastor Reverend Ellen (ph) here from White's Chapel Baptist Church.

ELLIOTT: Judge Roy Moore...

CHANG: Debbie's been covering the twists and turns in Judge Roy Moore's career ever since and has this brief profile.

ELLIOTT: Moore got his nickname, the Ten Commandments judge, when he refused to take down a hand-carved wooden plaque of the biblical laws hanging behind his bench. Here's how he explained his defiance on NPR 20 years ago.

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MOORE: Separation of church and state never meant to separate God from government. The First Amendment never meant to divide our country from an acknowledgement of God. It's time to stand up and say, we have a right under our Constitution to acknowledge God.

ELLIOTT: When he was elected chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court a few years later, he installed a 2-and-a-half-ton granite block inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

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MOORE: I'm pleased to present this monument depicting the moral foundation of our law and hereby authorize it to be placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building.

ELLIOTT: When federal courts found the display unconstitutional, Moore refused to take it down and was removed from the bench in 2003.

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MOORE: I will not violate my oath. I cannot forsake my conscience. I will not neglect my duty. And I will never - never - deny the God upon whom our laws and our country...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hallelujah.

(CHEERING)

ELLIOTT: Thousands rallied in his support, and Moore traveled the country appealing to religious conservatives. He pondered a presidential bid and made two failed runs for governor of Alabama. Then in 2012, he was re-elected as the state's chief justice only to be removed from office once again for defying federal courts. The issue this time - same-sex marriage.

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MOORE: This power to define marriage is not given to the federal government. It is reserved to the states and to the people.

ELLIOTT: Judge Roy Moore as chief justice in 2015 just before he was ousted. Today, on the Senate campaign trail, he's hitting those same religious conservative themes. Debbie Elliott, NPR News.

MCEVERS: Now let's look at the other candidate in this Alabama Republican Senate race. We found a brief mention of Luther Strange in our archives from 2011. And I do mean brief.

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LUTHER STRANGE: I'm Attorney General Luther Strange.

CHANG: That was part of a story about how states were suing the gas and energy giant BP over its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A year later, Strange told NPR he was intent on taking the company to court.

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STRANGE: We have a very strong case to make against BP and the other defendants. And so we look forward to trial. And of course, you know, if something happens on the settlement front, we'll have to review that.

MCEVERS: From there, Strange went on to sue the Obama administration with other Republican attorneys general, fighting the Affordable Care Act, environmental regulations and transgender bathroom directives. Then Alabama's governor tapped Strange to fill the Senate seat that Jeff Sessions left when he joined the Trump administration.

CHANG: President Trump is appearing at a rally tonight for Strange. The winner of this race goes on to a general election in December. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.