A growing number of Republicans are calling for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore to step down from the special election set for next month after another woman said Monday that Moore sexually assaulted her decades ago. She is the fifth accuser in the past week to say Moore made sexual or romantic advances when the women were teenagers.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes the women who have accused Moore, and called for him to step aside. He and others have floated the possibility of another candidate mounting a write-in bid in the race.
Sen. Cory Gardner, the chairman of Republicans campaign committee, said the women who had spoken out did so with “courage and truth.”
“If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate,” Gardner said in a statement. Expulsion would require backing from two-thirds of the Senate, something that has not been done since the Civil War and has never been done since senators became directly elected by the public.
Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted Monday afternoon: “In light of the most recent allegations and the cumulative effect of others, I believe #RoyMoore would be doing himself, the state, the GOP, and the country a service by stepping aside.”
The latest accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, said at a press conference Monday that when she was 16 and Moore was a county district attorney in the late 1970s, he groped and attacked her after offering her a ride home from the restaurant where she was a waitress.
“I tried fighting him off while yelling at him to stop. But instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” Nelson said. She added that Moore told her “no one will ever believe you” if she told others about the incident.
Nelson and Gloria Allred, the attorney representing her, brought as evidence Nelson’s high school yearbook with a signature from Moore, who wrote, “To a sweeter, more beautiful girl, I could not say. Merry Christmas…. Love, Roy Moore, D.A.”
Nelson said she felt motivated to share her story after several other women spoke to the Washington Post about their experiences with Moore around the same time, including a woman who said he touched her sexually when she was 14.
The Senate candidate, in a statement Monday evening, called the allegations "absolutely false" and said they were a "political maneuver" that has "nothing to do with reality."
"I never did what she said I did," Moore said. "I don't even know this woman. I don't know anything about her. I don't even know where the restaurant is or was.”
Before and after the new allegations Monday, Republican officials in Washington were increasingly calling on Moore to step down, but he has shown no signs of doing so. His campaign chairman, Bill Armistead, put out a statement shortly before Nelson’s press conference attacking Gloria Allred, the attorney representing the accuser, calling her a “sensationalist leading a witch hunt.”
Shortly after McConnell called on Moore to leave the race, Moore fired back, tweeting that McConnell should “step aside.”
Sen. Luther Strange, who lost to Moore in the primary despite backing from President Trump and McConnell, said a write-in campaign is "highly unlikely."
"I made my case during the election, so now it’s going to really be up to the people of our state to sort this out," he said.
Sen. Jeff Flake said he didn't expect Moore to reach the point of expulsion, but that he'd support it if that became an option. Unlike his colleagues, however, Flake didn't just call for Moore to leave the race, but said he'd support a Democratic opponent over him.
“If the choice is between Roy Moore and a Democrat, a Democrat. No doubt," Flake told reporters. He later tweeted that he would "run to the polling place" to support the Democrat.
Sen. Susan Collins said she'd listened closely to Moore's radio interview and other comments over the weekend, and that he should withdraw from the race. But she said it was too early to float the idea of expelling him if he wins the election.
Some Alabama Republicans have defended the nominee either by downplaying the accusations against him or saying they don’t believe them to be true.
“The fact that it’s four weeks from Election Day and you’ve got all the indications of a smear campaign around it, that’s the biggest problem you have here,” said Jonathan Gray, a longtime GOP consultant in Alabama who is not affiliated with the campaign. “The allegations don’t hold water, in my opinion.”
The allegations against Moore and the fallout have thrown new uncertainty into a race with massive implications for control of the Senate and President Trump’s legislative agenda. Moore’s war of words with McConnell and other Senate Republicans indicate he may be an unreliable ally for leadership on key votes. But a write-in campaign, or a major defection away from Moore by Alabama voters, could put the seat in Democratic hands. That would leave Republicans with just a one-seat majority in the upper chamber.
Moore currently holds a two-percentage-point lead over Democrat Doug Jones in the RealClearPolitics average. Three surveys taken since the allegations were first made have shown the race tied, Jones leading by four points, and Moore leading by 10 points, respectively.
Democrats have tread carefully throughout this race, backing Jones but not tying him too closely with the national party. Fellow senators have been assisting him in fundraising, however, with Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren all making appeals for Jones in recent days.
“It’s an Alabama race. They’re running it. They’re involved,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday. “If they ask us for things, we’re going to try to help them, but it’s an Alabama race and the Jones campaign is running it on their own.”