Alabama Thought It Had Seen Enough Scandal. Then Came Roy Moore.

“I don’t think it’s because Alabamians are more corrupt per capita,” said Jackson R. Sharman III, a criminal defense lawyer in Birmingham. “The broader culture is much more of a moral-based culture in the public square than it is in a lot of other places. When that’s the case, it may be that moral failings and missteps kind of come to the fore more quickly because they will stand out.”

Mr. Sharman should know: He led the Legislature’s investigation of Gov. Robert Bentley, a former Baptist deacon who quit in April as part of a plea agreement loosely connected to a sex scandal made famous by a surreptitiously recorded phone call. (Mr. Bentley’s departure in disgrace did not keep him from telling an Alabama television station months later that he was “the best governor Alabama’s ever had by far.” He could not be reached on Friday.)

To polish their state’s reputation of late, Alabamians sometimes note that Alabamians were the enforcers during the latest controversies. The ousted speaker, Michael G. Hubbard, was prosecuted in state court, not federal. A panel of state judges suspended Mr. Moore from the bench for violating judicial ethics. And the Legislature, as well as Alabama’s equivalent of a special prosecutor, helped to drive Mr. Bentley out of the governor’s office, where he used to display a picture of himself with Celine Dion and talk about how Bear Bryant, the legendary University of Alabama football coach, had been one of his dermatology patients.


Mike Hubbard, the former speaker of the Alabama House, was convicted of a dozen felony charges and ousted. Credit William Widmer for The New York Times

“Alabamians are concerned about the appearance that we have to others,” said Alice H. Martin, a former United States attorney in Birmingham who is now a Republican candidate for state attorney general. “It’s unfortunate when you have a beautiful state, and the only time you hit the national news is a bad negative story. That concerns voters.”

Not everyone is convinced that voters are blameless.

“No one forced people to vote for this bunch of crooks,” Josh Moon, a columnist for the website Alabama Political Reporter, wrote this week. “This is who voters in Alabama chose to put in charge. Despite all evidence and facts and history, this is the sad group of politicians duly elected and seated. And if given the opportunity, voters in this state would very likely put these same men back in charge.”

The new allegations against Mr. Moore, who has denied any misconduct, are by far the gravest of any of Alabama’s recent scandals. And while Mr. Moore was never expected to glide into the Senate, the accusations have imperiled his campaign in the days since nine women came forward to describe misconduct or unwanted romantic overtures.

The Alabama Republican Party opted this week to stand behind the nomination of Mr. Moore, whose Democratic opponent, Mr. Jones, is a former federal prosecutor. But whether or not Mr. Moore wins the special election on Dec. 12, Democrats and Republicans believe it unlikely that his swirl of scandal will quickly reverberate into many other races, at least in Alabama.

Indeed, the state party stuck with Mr. Moore, in part, because Republicans feared losing the support of their own voters. So far, just one Republican organization in Alabama — the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans — has formally distanced itself from Mr. Moore, and typically talkative Republican officeholders have refused to respond to messages in recent days.


Mr. Moore at his office in Montgomery when he was Alabama’s chief justice. He was forced to give up his gavel twice. Credit Jeff Haller for The New York Times

Now some of Mr. Moore’s supporters are wondering, and hoping, that the fusillade of criticism from beyond Alabama will strengthen his case before voters here who often declare their independence and insularity.

“We today have a choice in Alabama: to stand behind righteousness and one that God by his providence has placed there, or to abandon him,” said the Rev. Jim Nelson, pastor of a church in North Alabama.

But the election is still weeks away. For now, Mr. Moore’s problems have exacerbated and intensified a broad longing here for a hiatus from the scandals that have transformed the corridors of Goat Hill and the sandwich line at Scott Street Deli into gossip parlors.

“When you get scandals that are this hot, you can’t talk about anything else in politics,” said Mr. Brewbaker, who has already announced his plans to leave the Alabama Senate. “And we’ve got a lot of issues that it’d be nice for people to be focusing on right now.”

Still, the state may get a respite from the clamor soon. Next Saturday, after all, is when Alabama plays Auburn.

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