The battle lines of the intra-party fight over Roy Moore may initially look like they pit national Republicans horrified by the judge against Alabama Republicans sticking by him. And Lord knows Alabama Republicans have said some strange things in defense of their Senate nominee.
But Moore’s wall of support from the Alabama GOP seems to be collapsing too. Governor Kay Ivey has begun hedging on her earlier announcement that she would vote for Moore; now she says she intends to vote for him but will “hold judgment” on that until all the facts are in. And a bit less ambivalently, the man whom Moore seeks to join in the Senate, Richard Shelby, is saying: “I’ll vote Republican but I will probably write in a good candidate.”
Before expressing that sentiment publicly, Shelby should have perhaps conferred first with Alabama GOP chair Terry Lathan, who is thundering against any Republican who considers abandoning Roy.
“It would be a serious error for any current elected GOP official or candidate to publicly endorse another party’s candidate, an independent, a third party or a write in candidate in a general election as well,” Lathan said. “I have heard of no GOP elected official or candidate that is even considering this option.”
Lathan went on to cite a party rule that lets her deny anyone ballot access via the GOP if they endorse another party’s candidate. She clearly thinks that applies to endorsing write-in candidates as well.
Now Shelby just won reelection last year, and perhaps he’s not interested in running for another term in 2022, when he’d be 88. But Lathan may have to back down if a generally popular Alabama Republican runs as a write-in candidate, or if the Republican president of the United States, or his attorney general, endorses a write-in candidate. Otherwise Alabama Republicans may soon be looking for another chair.