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Richard Shelby, Alabama’s ranking Republican senator, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he “couldn’t vote for Roy Moore,” and that both the Republican Party and the people of Alabama deserve better. Here’s five things to know:
1. He Said he Already Voted for a Write-In Candidate
In mid-November, Shelby said he would “probably” vote for a write-in candidate rather than Moore. “I’ll vote Republican but I will probably write in a good candidate,” he said to reporters who asked him what he would do regarding Alabama’s special senatorial election on Dec. 12. (By that time, Shelby had already publicly called on Moore to “seriously consider” dropping out of the race altogether.)
During his latest appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he told host Jake Tapper that he did indeed cast his vote already — a write-in vote for a Republican who is not Roy Moore. “I’d rather see the Republican win, but I’d rather see a Republican write-in. I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore, but I wrote in a distinguished Republican name, and I think a lot of people could do that,” he said.
Shelby did not identify which Republican he actually voted for but, regarding Moore, said “The state of Alabama deserves better” and “I think the Republican party can do better.”
2. He Believes the Women who Accused Moore of Sexual Harassment or Assault
Sen. Shelby also said that he had no reason to disbelieve the many women who came forward with accusations against Moore, and also said that if there is “a lot of smoke, there’s got to be some fire somewhere.”
“Call it a tipping point,” Shelby said. “I think, so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip — when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”
The “14-year-old” was Leigh Corfman, who said Moore approached her when he was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney and she was a 14-year-old about to attend a custody hearing.
3. Most Alabama GOP Leaders Still Support Moore
Shelby’s refusal to support Moore makes him unusual by current Alabama Republican standards; the majority of state GOP leaders are standing by their party candidate (or at least refusing to publicly disavow him). As the Associated Press noted when it reported Shelby’s latest comments, Alabama’s governor, state attorney general, secretary of state, state auditor, and agricultural commissioner all say they intend to vote for Moore.
Jim Zeigler, Alabama’s state auditor, made national headlines after he defended Moore by citing various Biblical accounts of old man/young woman pairings, and comparing Moore favorably to them. “Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist. Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. … There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
4. Shelby has Been in the Senate Since 1987
Richard Shelby was born in Birmingham in May of 1934. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1957, then attended its school of law and graduated in 1963. He then spent several years as a city prosecutor in Tuscaloosa.
Shelby’s political career started in 1970, when he was elected to the Alabama State Senate. In 1978 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he stayed for 10 years before running for the Senate.
Shelby won his first U.S. senatorial election in 1986 and took office the following January. For his first senatorial election he ran as a Democrat, but switched his party affiliation to Republican in 1994.
5. He Said he Understands why President Trump Still Supports Moore
For all that Shelby said he believes Moore’s accusers and could not vote for Moore, Shelby told Tapper that he understands why Donald Trump still supports Moore’s candidacy.
“I understand where the president is coming from; we would’ve liked to retain that seat in the US Senate,” he said. “But I tell you what, there’s a time — we call it a tipping point. And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip. When it got to the 14-year-old story, that was enough for me. I said I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore.”
During Alabama’s Republican Senate primary, Shelby and Trump both supported Moore’s opponent Luther Strange.