BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Roy Moore’s Democratic opponent in the Alabama Senate race said Tuesday that he did his part as a prosecutor to ensure that “men who hurt little girls should go to jail and not the United States Senate.”
Doug Jones’ comments to supporters in Birmingham came hours before Moore was scheduled to appear at a rally with former White House strategist Steve Bannon and as new evidence of sexual misconduct surfaces against the Republican candidate.
Jones said Moore was an embarrassment to the state and would be a “disaster” for Alabama in Washington.
Referring to his own record as a former federal prosecutor, Jones said, “I damn sure believe that I have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail and not the United States Senate.”
Two women have accused Moore of sexually assaulting or molesting them decades ago, when they were 14 and 16 and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. At least five other women have said he pursued romantic relationships with them around the same time, when they were 16 to 18.
Moore has vehemently denied the misconduct allegations and said he never dated “underage” women, but he has not defined what age he means by that. He also said he always got their mothers’ consent.
Moore hopes to get a boost from Tuesday night’s rally with the populist firebrand Bannon, who is expected to attack the Washington Republicans who have said they believe Moore’s accusers.
Bannon’s appearance comes a week before the election as Moore and his allies fight to energize their supporters after a brief but ugly general election campaign. Many Washington Republicans have called on Moore to quit the race. Pushing back, President Donald Trump formally endorsed Moore on Monday and directed the Republican National Committee to send some assistance after withdrawing roughly a dozen staffers last month.
Bannon and Moore are scheduled to appear together in a dirt-floor barn deep in southwestern Alabama along the Mississippi border. It’s the same venue where Bannon appeared with Moore earlier in the year before he clinched the GOP nomination.
“For us, it’s big,” John Giles, who leads a pro-Moore super PAC, said of Bannon’s visit. “The only thing bigger than Bannon is Trump.”
Since being forced out of the White House in August, Bannon has resumed his leadership role at the pro-Trump Breitbart News and launched a broad campaign to take down establishment Republicans across the nation. He has vowed to defeat several Republican Senate incumbents in next year’s midterm elections because, in his view, they haven’t done enough to support Trump’s policies.
In Alabama, Bannon’s presence has less to do with Moore’s religious convictions than with their shared disdain for Washington Republicans. Moore’s brand is defined by his devotion to Christian values, but, like Bannon, he has promised to stand up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican who is deeply unpopular among many diehard Trump supporters.
While hardly a household name, Bannon will be welcomed in Alabama by a Moore campaign that has been aggressively shunned by his party’s biggest stars as the Dec. 12 special election approaches.
“Does Steve have 90 percent name ID? No. But people who like Steve are very passionate about liking Steve,” said Andy Surabian, senior adviser to the outside group Great America Alliance, which sometimes works with Bannon. “What Steve does is he motivates base voters to turn out, which is the entire key to this election.”
On Monday, the Washington Post reported new evidence of Moore’s pursuit of teenage girls decades ago. Moore has denied knowing any of the women, but one of them, Debbie Wesson Gibson, shared with the newspaper a card she said was signed by Moore congratulating her on graduating from high school.
Meanwhile, Moore continues to seek outside help in his bid to take the Senate seat once held by Republican Jeff Sessions, now U.S. attorney general, and represent Alabama in Washington through 2020. Although the polls have showed a narrowing contest with Jones, Alabama is a strongly Republican state and Democrats generally have little chance there.
During his speech Tuesday, Jones cited Moore’s record, which includes being twice removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for violating judicial ethics. He said Moore had never “served our state with honor.”
“He has never, ever been a source of pride for the people of this state, only a source of embarrassment,” Jones said.
As Moore’s campaign struggles to attract donations from traditional GOP donors, Great America Alliance invested $150,000 in a final-week advertising campaign that attacks Jones for his positions on abortion and immigration, among others.
The White House said Trump would not campaign in Alabama on Moore’s behalf, but he is scheduled to headline a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday, less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the Alabama border.