A write-in challenge? Expulsion from the Senate? A Democrat winning in Alabama?
Those are just a few of the possibilities following the Washington Post report that Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in Alabama’s Senate election next month, had sexual encounters with four teenage girls — one was 14 — when he was in his 30s.
Republicans in the Senate quickly called on Moore to drop out if the allegations are true. But Moore said the on-the-record accusations by all four women were “completely false” and his campaign added that “if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now.”
So what happens now?
Roy Moore will remain on the ballot no matter what
A candidate’s name can only be removed from the ballot more than 76 days before the election. Even if Moore drops out — and many Republicans want him to — his name will be on the ballot December 12. If he drops out but still gets the most votes, those votes will not be certified, according to Alabama law. In theory, the person with the second-highest number of votes would become senator.
Several text messages to Moore’s campaign manager asking if Moore would stay in the race were not returned.
Republicans may launch a write-in campaign
Roy Moore’s name will be on the ballot, but there is a space for people to write in an alternative.
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska reportedly talked to sitting Alabama Sen. Luther Strange about launching a write-in campaign in the aftermath of the Post’s story. Alabama does have a “sore loser” law, as some journalists pointed out on Thursday, but that only prevents Strange from having his name on the ballot. It does not preclude a write-in campaign, according to Alabama’s Secretary of State.
Strange lost to Moore in the Republican primary, so it would be a difficult campaign if Moore stays in and fights. Murkowski likely pointed out that she won her own write-in campaign in 2010 after losing the Republican primary to a tea party challenger. Strange took the Senate seat after Jeff Sessions became Attorney General.
Roy Moore wins, but the Senate expels him
The Senate has the power to expel members with a two-thirds majority vote. This almost never happens, but it’s possible. Only 15 senators have ever been expelled, and 14 of those were on accusations of supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Still, Alabama’s other senator, Republican Richard Shelby, said on Thursday that Moore “wouldn’t belong in the Senate” if the Post’s story is true. And more evidence could very well emerge that would put tremendous pressure on Republicans to vote Moore out.
A Democrat wins in Alabama and Republicans have only a one-vote majority in the Senate
This is what Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump should fear most.
Democrat Doug Jones has been trailing in the polls by double digits most of the campaign and he has tried to simultaneously motivate Democrats while enticing Republicans to cross over and back him. It’s been tough.
But the revelations that Moore had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old could sink the Republican and lift Jones into the Senate chamber. If that happens, Republicans will only have a 51-49 vote majority, meaning that any two Republicans can join together and block any bill. Republicans have already struggled to get legislation through the Senate, and a Jones victory would make it significantly more difficult.
In fact, electing Jones could very well sink tax reform and leave Republicans without any significant legislative accomplishments in Trump’s first two years.