Senate Republicans escalated their calls for embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to leave the race — with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he believes the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct and the chair of the GOP’s campaign arm endorsing an effort to expel Moore should he be elected next month.
“I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office,” said Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “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.”
Speaking to reporters earlier Monday in Louisville, McConnell ramped up his own pressure against Moore by going further than his initial statement on the matter. After the Washington Post reported last week that four women said Moore pursued them as teenagers when he was in his 30s, McConnell said that Moore should leave the race if the allegations were true.
“I think he should step aside,” McConnell said Monday, adding: “I believe the women, yes.”
Several other Senate Republicans have since called on Moore to get out of the Dec. 12 election, including Sens. Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Lee of Utah and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. On Monday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he sides with McConnell and that Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), the appointed senator who currently holds the seat, would be “an excellent alternative.”
“I have now read Mr. Moore’s statement and listened to his radio interview in which he denies the charges,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) tweeted Monday. “I did not find his denials to be convincing and believe that he should withdraw from the Senate race in Alabama.”
But there are no signs the pressure from Washington will sway Moore, the defiant former judge who was twice removed from the state’s highest court.
Shortly after McConnell’s remarks on Monday, Moore’s campaign account tweeted: “The person who should step aside is @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell. He has failed conservatives and must be replaced. #DrainTheSwamp.”
Party officials are also exploring whether to pursue a write-in bid to try to retain the Senate seat in the deeply conservative state. Notably, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who kept her own seat through a write-in campaign, has encouraged Strange to consider one.
“That’s an option we’re looking at, whether or not there is someone who can mount a write-in campaign successfully,” McConnell said during a news conference on tax reform. Whether that candidate could be Strange, whom Moore defeated in the primary, McConnell added: “We’ll see.”
Polls had already shown a surprisingly close race between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones even before the allegations broke. The most recently released survey, conducted by the Republican-leaning firm JMC Analytics and Polling, shows Jones leading Moore by 4 percentage points.
Meanwhile, a fifth Alabama woman publicly accused Moore of misconduct on Monday afternoon.
Appearing with attorney Gloria Allred at a press conference in New York, Beverly Young Nelson recounted how Moore, now 70, assaulted her when she was a waitress at a restaurant that the then-district attorney of Etowah County frequented.
Fighting through tears, Nelson recounted how one night, Moore forced himself on her in his car behind the restaurant in Gadsden.
After she screamed at him to stop, she said, “Instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch. I continued to struggle.”
“I thought he was going to rape me,” Nelson said.
“At some point he gave up,” she continued. “And he then looked at me and he told me, he said, ‘You’re just a child, and I am the district attorney of Etowah County, and if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.”
After Nelson gave her statement, Allred presented Nelson’s high school yearbook from 1977, carrying a note from Moore, which is signed, “Roy Moore, D.A.” She was 15-years-old at the time. Allred said she had spoken with Nelson’s sister, mother, and husband, who all said they knew about the alleged assault.
Ahead of the press conference, Moore’s campaign chairman Bill Armistead responded: “Gloria Allred is a sensationalist leading a witch hunt, and she is only around to create a spectacle. … We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Judge Moore is an innocent man and has never had any sexual misconduct with anyone.”
Gabriel Debenedetti contributed from New York.