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.
“He can do what he wants to, but we’re certainly going to oppose him in every way,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said in a brief interview with The Associated Press before Moore’s announcement.
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.
“I have NOTHING against Roy Moore,” Trump wrote, but warned that “Roy Moore cannot win.”
Moore brushed aside that criticism Thursday: “Can I win? Yes I can win.”
He says establishment Republicans don’t want him in the Senate.
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.