Sunday, May 23, 2004

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Booted from office and not listed on any ballots, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore could still be a major player in the state’s primary June 1.

Supporters of the “Ten Commandments judge” have lined up to run for one congressional district and all three state Supreme Court seats up for election this year.

“The public is tired of politicians professing certain beliefs and not acting on those beliefs,” said Tom Parker, Mr. Moore’s former legal adviser who now is trying to unseat Associate Justice Jean Brown in the Republican primary.

“They want elected officials who have the moral courage to do what they say they will do when they’re running for election,” he said.

But it’s not clear whether Mr. Parker and other conservative Christians can ride into office on a bandwagon built for Mr. Moore, who rose to national prominence last summer for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. He eventually lost his job because of his refusal.

“Judge Moore doesn’t have very large coattails,” said Larry Powell, a political pollster and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “He went too far when he refused to obey the court order, and that was sort of a turning point and his popularity has been dropping ever since then.”

Carl Grafton, a political science professor at Auburn University Montgomery, was less sure.

“I have to think that the Moore acolytes are better organized” than their opponents, Mr. Grafton said. “In the primaries, where the turnout is so low, intensity of feeling and organization often trumps numbers on the other side.”

The other side is generally thought to be the state’s business community.

The Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, composed of a couple dozen business groups, has endorsed Justice Brown and two other Republican judicial candidates in races against Moore followers. But even those candidates are reluctant to brand the race as the Republican Party’s business wing versus its religious wing.

“I reject the notion that this is the Christians versus the non-Christians here or Christians versus the business community because I have been a Baptist Sunday school teacher for almost 20 years,” said Justice Brown, one of the eight associate justices who voted to overrule Mr. Moore and comply with the court order to remove the monument.

Montgomery County District Judge Peggy Givhan, running against a Moore-supported candidate and two others for a Supreme Court seat, voiced at least partial agreement with the ousted chief justice’s stance.

“I’m sure that [Moore] has just the finest motives to call attention to the eroding values in America,” Judge Givhan said. “But as judges, we do take an oath to uphold the law.”

Birmingham lawyer Phillip Jauregui, who represents Mr. Moore and argued Mr. Moore’s appeal of his ouster before a special Supreme Court panel, is taking on six-term U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus in the Republican primary.

Mr. Moore, who remains coy about his own political future, has refrained from endorsing any of the candidates, which he was prohibited from doing as a sitting judge. He has, however, issued statements of support for Mr. Parker, Mr. Jauregui and two other Supreme Court candidates — Pam Baschab and Jerry Stokes.

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