MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Republican Roy Moore announced Thursday that he is running for U.S. Senate again in 2020 after failing to win the seat two years ago amid sexual misconduct accusations.
With his return to the political stage, Moore faces a crowded GOP primary field as he aims for an eventual rematch against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who bested him in the 2017 special election to fill the seat previously held by Jeff Sessions.
“I believe in America. I believe we’ve got to have politicians that go to Washington and do what they say,” Moore said during his announcement.
Some state and national Republicans, worried that Moore’s too polarizing and could jeopardize what should otherwise be a reliable GOP seat, have discouraged him from entering the race. Republicans see retaking the Alabama seat as a top priority in 2020.
“Alabama can do better than Roy Moore,” the state’s senior senator, Republican Richard Shelby, told reporters shortly before Moore’s announcement.
He declined to say what he would do to try blocking Moore but said he believed “a lot” of Republican groups would oppose him.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell concurred in a brief interview with The Associated Press before the announcement.
“He can do what he wants to, but we’re certainly going to oppose him in every way,” the Kentucky Republican said.
President Donald Trump tweeted last month that Moore “cannot win” and said Republicans need to retake the seat in the once reliably red state.
“Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama,” Trump wrote in a tweet.
Moore brushed aside that criticism Thursday, saying the people of Alabama are angry and want Washington to stay out of their elections
“Can I win? Yes I can win,” he said.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Stewart Boss said national Republicans who supported Moore’s 2017 campaign “have nobody to blame but themselves for the chaotic primary that’s escalating in Alabama.”
Jones said in a statement that Moore’s candidacy “will make a divisive Republican primary even more extreme.”
During the 2017 race, six women accused Moore of pursuing romantic or sexual relationships with them when they were teenagers as young as 14 and he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s. Two accused him of assault or molestation.
Moore denied the accusations and has said he considered his 2017 defeat, when he lost to Jones by 22,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast, “a fraud.”
A crowded GOP primary field is competing to challenge Jones. U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and legislator Arnold Mooney have already announced bids.
Moore retains a strong following among some evangelical voters in the state. He was twice elected as the state’s chief justice but was twice stripped of those duties after a judicial ethics panel said he defied, or urged defiance of, federal court orders regarding same-sex marriage and the public display of the Ten Commandments.