10 Commandments judge eyes run for governor

Published 8:29 am Saturday, January 24, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s Ten Commandments judge, Roy Moore, is weighing another run for governor in 2010, when he won’t have to take on a popular incumbent.

Moore has been operating a legal organization, the Foundation for Moral Law in Montgomery, since losing the Republican primary to incumbent Bob Riley in 2006. But in recent weeks, Moore said, a growing number of supporters have been calling and visiting him, encouraging him to run again.

“A lot of people have asked me and I am strongly considering,” Moore said in an interview Thursday.

Moore expects to make a decision in the spring, before candidates can start raising money in June.

D’Linell Finley, a political scientist at Auburn University Montgomery and a minister, said Moore could do better the second time around because evangelical voters are feeling “snubbed” after Barack Obama’s election as president.

“The evangelicals will feel they need somebody in office to speak out for them in a loud voice, and Judge Moore could benefit from that,” Finley said Friday.

One of Moore’s strongest allies in the past was former Gov. Fob James. If Moore runs, he will have to take on James’ son, Greenville businessman Tim James, who is already campaigning as a Republican.

Republican State Treasurer Kay Ivey has begun assembling a campaign team, but has not announced. Other Republicans who have said they are being encouraged to consider the race include: Attorney General Troy King, Birmingham lawyer Luther Strange, two-year college Chancellor Bradley Byrne, Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins, U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, state Rep. Robert Bentley, and state House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard.

Moore, 61, was a little-known circuit judge in Gadsden until a legal battle erupted over his display of a homemade plaque of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. The name recognition he gained from that helped him win the race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2000. But he didn’t complete his term.

Moore installed a two-ton monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the state judicial building. A federal judge ordered it removed, but Moore refused. The State Court of the Judiciary kicked him out of office in November 2003 for disobeying the order.

Moore felt he didn’t get support from Riley and ran against him in 2006. With unemployment at a record low and state budgets at a record high, Riley won by a 2-to-1 margin.

In 2010, state law will prohibit Riley from running for a third term. And economic conditions have changed dramatically since 2006, with unemployment the highest in 15 years and the governor cutting state budgets due to the recession.

David Lanoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama, said that in hard times, voters tend to make economic issues more important than social issues, and that could hamper Moore.

“When people think of Roy Moore, they think of social issues,” he said. “If Judge Moore hopes to be a strong candidate in the 2010 primary, he’s going to have to broaden his portfolio.”

Moore is already doing that.

“I’m against raising taxes. When there are hard times, it doesn’t make sense to raise taxes on people, but that is often the case,” he said Thursday.

Moore is also speaking out against the expansion of gambling in Alabama. On Thursday, he filed a brief with the Alabama Supreme Court in the legal battle over whether to allow electronic bingo in his home county, Etowah, in north Alabama.

Moore argued that video gambling posing as “machine bingo” in Etowah County is an illegal lottery scheme prohibited under Alabama law.

Moore is also speaking kindly about Riley these days.

“We’ve had our differences mainly over taxes, but overall, he’s done a good job,” Moore said.