Senate Republican leader calls on Alabama candidate Moore to ‘step aside’ ()

Senate Republican leader calls on Alabama candidate Moore to ‘step aside’

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called on Monday for Roy Moore, the party’s Senate candidate in Alabama, to “step aside” over allegations he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl decades ago.

FILE PHOTO: Judge Roy Moore participates in the Mid-Alabama Republican Club’s Veterans Day Program in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, U.S. November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry/File Photo

McConnell told reporters in his home state of Kentucky that party officials were considering whether a Republican write-in candidate could be found to challenge Moore in the Dec. 12 special election.

“I think he should step aside,” said McConnell, who had previously said Moore should leave the race if the allegations were true. “I believe the women.”

Moore, a Christian conservative who was a heavy favorite to win the election against Democrat Doug Jones, has denied allegations in the Post story about his relationships with women when they were teenagers, including a charge he initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl when he was in his 30s.

He has refused to leave the race and said on Twitter that McConnell was the person who should step down. “He has failed conservatives and must be replaced,” Moore said.

Other national Republicans also have backed away from Moore. The Republican Senate campaign arm on Friday severed its fund-raising relationship with him for the special election to fill a seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became U.S. attorney general earlier this year.

“I stand with the Majority Leader on this,” Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch tweeted on Monday. “These are serious and disturbing allegations.”

Judge Roy Moore participates in the Mid-Alabama Republican Club’s Veterans Day Program in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, U.S., November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

But the state party and many other Alabama Republicans have not wavered in their support of Moore, who scored a decisive primary victory in September over Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the Sessions seat on an interim basis and was supported by President Donald Trump.

A Democratic win in Alabama would be a blow to Trump’s agenda and shift the political outlook for next year’s midterm elections, giving Democrats a shot at gaining the three seats they need to recapture control of the U.S. Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters about allegations made against Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

It is too late to remove Moore’s name from the ballot, but McConnell told reporters he was “looking at” potential write-in candidates who could mount a successful campaign. Asked if Strange might be a candidate again, he said “We’ll see.”

On Twitter, Hatch said Strange was “an excellent alternative.”

The special election had been a long shot for Democrats in Alabama, which has not elected a Democratic senator in a quarter century. Jones, a former federal prosecutor, was trailing by double digits in some polls.

Moore, who is prone to incendiary comments on social and cultural issues, has survived controversy before. He was twice forced out of his position as the state’s chief justice, once for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse and once for defying the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

He threatened to sue the Post over the weekend and said the allegations were a smear campaign by his political opponents.

Additional reporting by David Alexander and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Bill Trott

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November 13, 2017 at 12:28PM