Much of the Republican Party establishment is walking back its once-strong opposition to Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP Senate candidate who faces multiple accusations of preying upon teenage girls decades ago.
But one prominent Republican from Moore’s state, Sen. Richard Shelby, says he hasn’t changed his mind at all.
He added: “I think the Republican Party can do better.”
Indicating that he had already cast his ballot in Tuesday’s special election, Shelby went on to say he didn’t vote for Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, either.
He said that he wrote in a different candidate ― “a distinguished Republican name.”
“I’m not going to vote for the Democrat,” Shelby said.
“I would rather see the Republican win, but I would hope that Republican would be a write-in.”
When CNN host Jake Tapper asked Shelby whether, should Moore get elected senator, he’d vote to expel him from the chamber, he demurred.
“We’ll see what happens,” Shelby said.
Moore, 70, had been a strong favorite to win the Senate seat until early November, when The Washington Post published an article in which four women said that he pursued them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One of those women, Leigh Corfman, said she was 14 when Moore took her on dates and eventually touched her sexually.
Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has denied the allegations, calling them “fake news” and suggesting they are part of a conspiracy by his political opponents to keep him out of office. But following publication of the Post story, which was thoroughly reported, and similar accounts from more women, most of the GOP establishment condemned Moore and talked openly of expelling him from the Senate should he win election.
Even Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a White House adviser, weighed in. “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children,” Trump told the Associated Press. “I’ve yet to see a valid explanation (from Moore) and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts.”
But her father, President Donald Trump, has since given Moore a full-throated endorsement. At a Friday rally in Pensacola, Florida, just across the Alabama state border, Trump echoed questions about Moore’s accusers and said “Get out and vote for Roy Moore!”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t gone that far. But after initially saying that he believed Moore’s accusers and that the former judge might face Senate expulsion if Alabama elects him, McConnell last week softened his stance. “The people of Alabama are going to decide [in Tuesday’s vote] who they want to send to the Senate,” he said. “It’s really up to them.”
A handful of Republicans have remained steadfast in their opposition to Moore ― among them, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Flake went so far as to write a check, which he posted on twitter, donating $100 to Democrat Jones.