Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s office has confirmed that the governor has interviewed 11 potential appointees to be the state’s next U.S. senator, including controversial (and currently suspended) Chief Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore.
President-elect Donald Trump has selected Sessions as his top pick for U.S. Attorney General. If Sessions is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Bentley has the power to appoint whomever he deems fit for the position until a special election can be held.
It is not yet clear whether Bentley wishes to name a placeholder, or whether the interim senator would be eligible to run in the special election. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has already indicated his interest in running for the seat.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Bentley has also interviewed U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), State Senators Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), Bill Hightower (R-M0bile), and Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), and House Ways and Means Education Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) as a replacement for Sen. Jeff Sessions. Last week, he interviewed Associate Justice Glenn Murdock, Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper), and former Rep. Perry Hooper (R-Montgomery) for the position.
The choice of Moore would likely raise eyebrows, given his recent legal troubles. Moore was suspended without pay for the remainder of his current term, which ends in January 2019, after a judicial oversight panel found him guilty of violating judicial ethics in order to push his own agenda. At issue was an order from January 2016 that Moore issued to probate judges throughout Alabama telling them that an Alabama Supreme Court decision refusing to recognize same-sex marriages was still in effect, even though the U.S. Supreme Court had legalized marriage equality nationwide six months earlier.
Moore, a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, also has a history of championing right-wing causes. In 2003, during his first term as Chief Justice, he was removed from office after he defied a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. In 2012, he ran for his old job and was elected by a narrow margin.
But Bentley may be swayed by political pressure to name Moore to the seat. According to Yasamie August, a spokeswoman for Bentley, the governor sent a survey to more than 400 members of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee last month inquiring about potential appointees. August told the Advertiser that Moore was “one of the top picks” of the Republican committee members.
Additionally, the Senate seat would provide an opportunity for Moore, who is currently appealing his suspension from the bench, to stay involved in politics. Even if he gets his suspension overturned, age limits for elected judges would prevent Moore from running for re-election in 2018. In contrast, if Moore were to be named as the interim senator and then run and win election in 2017, he would serve out the remainder of Sessions’ term until 2020, at which point he could run for a full six-year term.
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