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Judge Roy Moore with his wife, Kayla, after conceding the governorís race to Gov. Bob Riley. After he lost to Riley in the primary by a 2-to-1 margin, some are questioning whether he has any future in politics.
AP Photo by Butch Dill
Judge Roy Moore with his wife, Kayla, after conceding the governorís race to Gov. Bob Riley. After he lost to Riley in the primary by a 2-to-1 margin, some are questioning whether he has any future in politics.

Dark political future?
Experts question Mooreís chances in later races after stinging defeat

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Alabama's Ten Commandments judge, Roy Moore, was once so popular that some people urged him to run for president. Now, after losing to Gov. Bob Riley by a 2-to-1 margin, some are questioning whether he has any future in politics.

"A defeat of this magnitude will make it difficult," said Jess Brown, a political scientist at Athens State University.

Moore got only 33 percent of the vote against Riley in the Republican primary election Tuesday. Other candidates with no money or name recognition have managed to do nearly as well in past elections against popular incumbents. For instance, perennial candidate Wayne Sowell got 32 percent of the vote against U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby in the 2004 general election.

Moore was so popular in 2003 that hundreds gathered day after day in Montgomery to try to keep his Ten Commandments monument from being removed from the state judicial building.

The drama — played out on front

pages and in newscasts across the country — ended with the monument pushed into storage and Moore getting kicked out of office.

Moore became such a national figure that the Constitution Party tried to recruit him to run for president in 2004. Moore declined a national stage and turned toward home, targeting the incumbent governor who had split with him over disobeying the judge's order.

Handicaps

Running against an incumbent governor during good economic times is never easy, but Moore had other handicaps.

He refused to take donations from special interests' political action committees, and he could never keep up with Riley in fundraising: $5.5 million for Riley to $1.4 million for Moore a week before the election.

Then he kept wrangling with his own political party:

  • He accused party Chairman Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh of being biased toward Riley, her old boss, and called for her to resign. She refused.
  • He had to call a news conference to deny persistent rumors in the Republican Party that he was going to leave the party and run as an independent.
  • He criticized a Republican president for saying nice things about Riley's administration during a visit to Tuskegee.

    Cavanaugh said it's hard to run in a party at the same time you're fighting with it.

    Further troubles

    The split between Moore and his party grew on election night. Moore told supporters in Gadsden he wouldn't endorse Riley for the general election because Riley took money from PACs.

    "That's going to hurt him within the Republican Party, if he could hurt himself more than he had," said Carl Grafton, a political scientist at Auburn University Montgomery.

    Cavanaugh said she hadn't talked to Moore since shortly after he called for her resignation in February and, with his refusal to endorse Riley, she has no plans to contact him.

    Riley said Friday he never got the traditional concession phone call from Moore, but he was not bothered by it. "If they are uncomfortable making that call, that's their decision," Riley said.

    Nothing definite

    After his loss, Moore said he has no political plans at this time, but he left open the possibility of future involvement.

    The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington and a friend of Moore's, said he doesn't know if Moore will return to politics one day, but he hopes Moore will speak out on national issues and lend his support to other candidates and referendums throughout the country.

    "He might have more of a national face than he's had in the past," Mahoney said.

    In Mahoney's view, Moore's loss in Alabama didn't damage his national support. "I think the standing of Judge Roy Moore nationwide is as strong as ever," he said.

    Strong base of support

    John Giles, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, said Moore still has "a deeply conservative Christian base," particularly in rural areas, and he has a philosophy about limited government and taxes that has a broader appeal than his vote total indicated.

    But if he wants to make a comeback in Alabama politics, he needs to heal his rift with Riley. "People don't remember you by your wins. They remember you by how you lose — the gracious and dignity of your losing," Giles said.

    Giles speaks from experience because he said it was emotionally tough to call Charlie Graddick after he defeated Giles in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor in 1994.

    Lesser office an option

    Brown said Moore could possibly make a comeback in Alabama politics if he sought a lesser office, such as attorney general or another court seat.

    It has worked for other politicians, most notably Don Siegelman, who lost the 1990 race for governor and then got elected lieutenant governor in 1994, Brown said.

    For now, Moore said he plans to keep making speeches and writing legal papers for the Foundation for Moral Law, which he started in Montgomery.

    Speaking and writing have been lucrative for Moore. He filed a financial disclosure form last year showing he took in more than $250,000 in 2004 from his speaking fees and from his book "So Help Me God."

    But can that kind of income continue after his lopsided defeat?

    "Roy Moore is in big trouble," Grafton said. "How long are people going to keep paying him to make the same speech?"

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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