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Alabama Republicans bet on Roy Moore, a familiar rebel, for Senate

PIEDMONT, Ala. — Roy S. Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, seems to keep score on everything.

On campaign fund-raising, he can tell you how often he is outspent. He rattles off the courts whose views, he argues, support his unwavering opposition to same-sex marriage. And as he recently recounted at a breakfast with pastors here in northeast Alabama, he knows just how many presidents of the United States have had to reckon with him, a lawyer from rural Gallant.

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“Did you know the last three presidents, and contenders, have all addressed me?” said Moore, whose career has included being removed from the state Supreme Court twice — an outright ouster the first time, and then, nearly 13 years later, a suspension until the end of the new term he won after his removal.

Now, after defeating Luther Strange, the incumbent who had President Trump’s vocal backing, in the Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, Moore is most likely going to Washington.

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That prospect has stunned and alarmed many people beyond Alabama, including some of the nation’s top Republicans. Here in his home state, though, few people seem surprised. Moore’s resurgence is seen as the latest act in a decades-long career that has endured mostly because the 70-year-old former judge does not seem to change on much of anything.

“He walks the walk, OK?” said David Mowery, a consultant in Montgomery, the state capital, who helped run a Democratic campaign against Moore in 2012, less than a decade after Moore defied a federal judge’s order to remove a 5,000-pound Ten Commandments monument from the Supreme Court building.

“He doesn’t just say he’s going to do this,” Mowery said. “He gets thrown out of office over it. And then he gets reelected.”

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In order to fill the Senate seat that Attorney General Jeff Sessions held for 20 years, Moore must pass one more test: a special election in December against the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor.

Although Trump said Friday that Moore “has a very good chance of not winning” in December, strategists expect the state’s voters to choose Moore.

If he is elected to the Senate, Moore will have gotten there as a rare retail politician with a penchant for reciting Blackstone’s Commentaries on common law. At the same time, and to greater political benefit, the former professional kickboxer exhibits traits that many Alabamians see in themselves and seek in their elected officials: He is outwardly pious and prone to political pugilism, self-assured and satisfied with standing alone.

“Roy Moore is Huey Long with religion,” said Jim Zeigler, a Republican who is the state auditor. “Huey Long would tell it like it is. He ran against the establishment, he defeated the establishment, he would not compromise with the establishment. Roy Moore does all those things, but he has a biblical worldview.”

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