- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s top Republicans have changed course and joined the growing number of conservatives calling for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to step aside amid allegations that he sexually molested an underage girl and groped another teen in the late 1970s.

Gov. Scott Walker issued a one-sentence statement Monday evening saying Moore should step aside - a change from his position a day earlier, when he said in a television interview that the conservative Christian should only do that if the allegations proved true. On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan called for Moore to drop out.

“These allegations are credible,” Ryan told reporters on Tuesday. “If he cares about the values and people he claims to care about then he should step aside.”

Republican state Sen. Leah Vukmir, who is running for U.S. Senate next year, said last week that Moore should only leave the race if the allegations were true. Her GOP opponent, Kevin Nicholson, made similar comments.

But after another woman came forward Monday to say Moore had assaulted her when she was 16, Vukmir issued a statement Tuesday joining Ryan and Walker in taking a firmer stand.

Roy Moore’s conduct as described is very disturbing and should disqualify anyone from serving in public office,” Vukmir said in a statement. “The allegations are credible and serious and should be treated as such.”

Four hours later, Nicholson changed his stance as well.

“There is absolutely no place in our society for this type of alleged behavior,” Nicholson said. “I don’t have a vote in Alabama, but if I did and with the information I know today, I would want Roy Moore to move out of the race so that Alabamans could elect a conservative candidate who can ably go to the Senate and help advance and enact the president’s agenda.”

Nicholson, like Moore, is supported by Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist who has declared war on Republicans he sees as opposed to President Donald Trump’s agenda. Bannon supports candidates like Moore and Nicholson who want to remove Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from his leadership post.

McConnell said Monday that he believes the women, intensifying the pressure on Moore to abandon his campaign before the Dec. 12 special election. Last week, The Washington Post reported that in 1979, when Moore was 32, he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and pursued romantic relationships with three other teenage girls around the same period.

Moore, who denied last week molesting the 14-year-old but didn’t flatly deny he had dated teenagers, has shown no signs of quitting the race.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and sign up for the AP’s weekly newsletter showcasing our best reporting from the Midwest and Texas: http://apne.ws/2u1RMfv

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