In the blood-red state of Alabama, a fiery, outspoken jurist is running for U.S. Senate by standing up for what he believes.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore doesn’t shrink from telling voters he has twice been ousted from the bench for defying federal courts over the Ten Commandments and same-sex marriage.

Instead, he wears those rejections as a badge of honor, telling Republican voters that they are akin to battle scars.

“I will not only say what is right, I will do what is right,” Moore said during a June forum in the east Alabama city of Oxford.

Moore is part of a crowded GOP field vying to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old seat in the U.S. Senate. Moore’s iconic status in the culture wars gives him a strong GOP voter base and makes him a leading contender in the primary on August 15.

But he’s also a polarizing figure. Some voters said they are voting for him because of his past fights.

Others said they want someone else for the same reasons. Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen, who filed the complaint that led to Moore’s removal, last year referred to him as the “Ayatollah of Alabama” for intertwining his personal religious beliefs and judicial responsibilities.

Incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, appointed last year by the state’s former governor and backed by Republican establishment, faces multiple challengers. Among them, in addition to Moore, is U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who has the endorsement of Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. The race could lead to a runoff between the top two primary finishers.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which has ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and tries to bank candidates perceived as winnable in general elections, has put its fiscal force behind Strange.

The Republican National Committee last week authorized its Senate campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, to spend $350,000 on the Alabama Senate race, money that is expected to benefit Strange.

Moore is a West Point graduate and former military policeman during Vietnam. He became a prosecutor, circuit judge and then state chief justice.

But Alabama’s judicial discipline panel twice stripped him of his chief justice duties. In 2003 he was removed for disobeying a federal judge’s order to remove a boulder-sized Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse.

 

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