MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Bounced from office and not listed on any ballots, Alabama's "Ten Commandments judge" could nonetheless be a major player in the state's primary tomorrow.
Supporters of former Chief Justice Roy Moore have lined up to run for one congressional seat and all three state Supreme Court seats up for election.
"The public is tired of politicians professing certain beliefs and not acting on those beliefs," said Tom Parker, Moore's former legal adviser, who now is trying to unseat Justice Jean Brown in the Republican primary.
It is unclear whether Parker and other conservative Christians can ride into office on a bandwagon built for Moore, who became a hero to the religious right last summer for defying a federal court order to remove a 2-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. Moore eventually was thrown off the bench by a judicial ethics panel last November 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, professor of political science at Auburn University Montgomery, is less certain.
"I have to think that the Moore acolytes are better organized" than their opponents, 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, made up of a couple of dozen business groups, has endorsed Brown and two other Republican judicial candidates in races against Moore followers.
But even those candidates are reluctant to brand the race as the GOP's business wing against its religious wing. "I reject the notion that this is the Christians vs. the non-Christians here, or Christians vs. the business community, because I have been a Baptist Sunday school teacher for almost 20 years," Brown said.
Birmingham lawyer Phillip Jauregui, who represents Moore and argued the chief justice's so-far unsuccessful appeal of his ouster, is challenging an entrenched conservative congressman in the GOP primary, six-term Representative Spencer Bachus.
Moore has issued statements of support for Parker, Jauregui, and two other Supreme Court candidates. "I can't predict the future, but I can tell you that people are very upset over the past actions of state officials . . . who have chosen to blindly follow a federal court order to remove the acknowledgment of God from Alabama," Moore said in a statement.