Today is the primary election day in Alabama for the race to fill the unexpired term of US Senator Jeff Sessions, who was appointed Attorney General by President Trump. The three main candidates in the Republican primary are Luther Strange, who was appointed by former Governor Bentley to temporarily fill the seat, Roy Moore, best known as the judge who tried to put a 10 Commandments monument in the state Supreme Court building, and Mo Brooks, a congressman from Huntsville.
Personally I'm not a fan of any of the three candidates. Ordinarily I would research the lesser known candidates on the ballot and vote for one of them. But the Alabama election rules mean there will in all likelihood be a runoff in a few weeks between the two top vote winners. That's why I am reluctantly casting my vote for Brooks. When it comes down to a choice between a run-of-the-mill politician, a crook and a clown show, the politician wins.
Before his appointment, Luther Strange was the Alabama Attorney General. When Trump won the election in November, everyone knew that Jeff Sessions would be part of Trump’s Cabinet, which meant there would be an opening in the US Senate seat. At the same time, the Alabama Legislature was contemplating impeachment of Governor Bentley .
In November (but before the presidential election) Strange announced his office was investigating Bentley. The Legislature agreed to postpone action until Strange's investigation was complete. Before the investigation was complete, Bentley appointed Strange to Sessions' seat. Strange insists there was no quid pro quo, but it shouldn't take a law degree to see the obvious conflict of interest. At the press conference announcing his appointment, Strange denied that his office was investigating the governor, but his successor as Attorney General confirmed there was and recused himself because he was appointed by the governor. After this fiasco, the Legislature went ahead with its own impeachment proceedings. Bentley agreed to a plea bargain and resignation a few weeks later.
The Clown Show
Roy Moore is more principled person than Strange, I will grant him that. But his penchant for needlessly creating controversy disqualifies him as a candidate, in my mind. In 2001, while he was Alabama Chief Justice (an elected position in Alabama), Moore made national headlines by loudly and publicly erecting a 10 Commandments monument in the lobby of the Alabama Supreme Court building. The pompous way Moore did it (including selling videotapes featuring the installation and his speech) invited controversy. Atheist organizations sued and successfully persuaded a federal court that it should be removed. After Moore lost all appeals he still refused to remove it, resulting in his removal by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary in 2003.
After a few years in obscurity (which included losing a race for governor and flirting with a third-party run for president) Moore ran again for Chief Justice in 2012 and won again. Once again he couldn’t stay out of the headlines. After the US Supreme Court legalized homosexual marriage, Moore instructed county officials not to issue or honor them in Alabama. After numerous court proceedings, Moore was forced to resign earlier this year, just in time to run for Senate. The Senate would be a perfect platform for Moore’s brand of political opportunism: he could make speeches and vote however he wants without having to do any of those annoying things like obey the law as an officer of the court.
If doing public good was the only criterion for Senate, then I would probably vote for the leading Democratic candidate Doug Jones, a long-time prosecutor best known for successfully prosecuting numerous people who committed criminal acts during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s and were never charged or had charges dropped. But I cannot vote for a candidate who proudly says on his Web site, “I stand with Planned Parenthood.”
So Mo Brooks it is. If Brooks makes the runoff against either Strange or Moore, I will vote for him again. If Strange and Moore make the runoff, I will not vote. If Strange or Moore win the GOP nomination, I will vote for the Libertarian candidate or push through an empty ballot. I am definitely a “never Strange” and a “never Moore” Alabama voter.