Too much religion? Analyst says Moore 'overreached'
Candidates said hurt by single-minded message, few funds
By Taylor Bright, Huntsville Times (Huntsville, Alabama), June 8, 2006
MONTGOMERY - Alabama voters Tuesday approved a same-sex marriage ban, while a large majority washed their hands of former Chief Justice Roy Moore and several like-minded religious conservatives who ran for the Supreme Court.
But experts say religion will not disappear from Alabama politics.
"They will live to fight another day," William Stewart, professor of politics at the University of Alabama, said Wednesday.
Moore and Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom Parker, Moore's former spokesman, lost by landslides in their races for governor and chief justice.
Moore received one-third of the vote in the Republican primary against Gov. Bob Riley. Parker received 39 percent of the vote against Riley's former director of finance, Chief Justice Drayton Nabers.
"I think they overreached," Stewart said.
Stewart said the candidates also went up against well-funded opponents in their own party: "You can't go with a pop gun versus a shotgun."
Other candidates who ran on similar platforms as Moore and Parker lost their Supreme Court bids, too. They were Ben Hand, Hank Fowler and Alan Zeigler.
Moore came to national prominence in 2003 after he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building as ordered by a federal judge.
Parker, Moore's spokesman at the time, then parlayed the energy Moore had created among Christian Republicans to defeat incumbent Jean Brown for a seat on the Supreme Court.
Stewart said Moore would have had more support if he had been able to run for governor right after he was removed as chief justice by the Court of the Judiciary.
"The sooner after Moore's ousting, the more strength he would have had," he said.
In the meantime, other Republicans were able to shape a message similar to Moore's, said David Lanoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama.
"They did everything to establish their credentials as Christian conservatives," he said.
In his ads, Nabers painstakingly painted himself as a Christian conservative. In one, he is trumpeted as an "author of a book on biblical character."
From 2003 until 2006, Lanoue said, other Republicans had time to shape their new message that would appeal to Moore supporters.
'A societal problem'
"It's a societal problem to me rather than a problem with individuals," Holland said.
Holland said Moore ran out of money and time to get his message across, which consisted on much more than God.
"We just couldn't get traction on it," he said.
Holland also said because Moore didn't accept money from political action committees, it may have hurt the campaign.
Holland, though, denied there was a "Roy Moore slate" or any concerted effort between the campaigns for governor and the Supreme Court. "I don't believe for a minute there was a Roy Moore slate," he said. "We were running our own campaign."
Lanoue said Moore and Parker had another problem: "Everybody running in that primary was conservative."
In practical terms, he said, candidates who want to run on a similar platform as Moore and Parker will have to present a broader vision. They "are going to have to re-tool their message and they're going to have to diversify their portfolio and find a way to raise money."
While Moore and Parker may have lost, Stewart said, religion will remain a part of Alabama politics.
Stewart said candidates such as Moore and Parker may want to focus on smaller races such as a spot on the appeals courts or attorney general.
"They will need to be more selective," he said.
Powell said many voters became tired of Moore constantly talking about religion and began to suspect he was using the issue for his own advancement.
Powell, who teaches communications at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, sees no conflict between Bible Belt voters defeating candidates on the religious right and passing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.
"The values concept is still there, but they are highly suspicious of someone who uses it for their own ambitions," he said.
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