By Quin Hillyer in the New York Times;

Mobile, Ala. — Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore delivered a striking rebuke Tuesday to President Trump and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

Casual observers nationwide might marvel that Mr. Moore, twice evicted from the state high court for judicial-ethics violations, ran substantially ahead of the incumbent senator Luther Strange in Alabama’s special-election Republican primary — this, despite being outspent by more than 10 to 1, and despite Mr. Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Strange.

But Mr. Moore had a few things going for him that outsiders seem to have missed. Mr. Strange has his own ethical stench. More important, the rest of the country just doesn’t get how much Alabama voters like and trust Mr. Moore.

To understand the Strange stench, one must consider the context of his ascension to the Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley, not long before Mr. Bentley resigned over a cringe-inducing affair with a top aide, Rebekah Mason, and his heavy-handed attempts to cover it up, including (apparently) misuse of state funds. Mr. Bentley had run as a moral exemplar and a man of humility — but instead was revealed, by copious evidence, as a self-serving bully. The state House of Representatives had begun an impeachment inquiry into his conduct, but Mr. Strange, then the state’s attorney general, curiously asked the House to desist while his own office supposedly conducted a criminal investigation.

Shortly thereafter, when Mr. Trump chose Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Mr. Strange sought and secured Mr. Bentley’s appointment as Mr. Sessions’s temporary replacement — at the exact same time Mr. Strange’s office was slowly investigating Mr. BentleyTo anyone watching in Alabama, Mr. Strange looked like a would-be executioner seeking favors from the king whose neck he alone could decide to guillotine.

It didn’t matter that, as Mr. Strange has repeatedly noted, his successor secured a (lenient) plea deal that removed Mr. Bentley from office anyway: Many voters resent what looked like a tacit, wink-and-nod understanding between Mr. Bentley and Mr. Strange. Then they see Mr. McConnell’s political action committee pledge to spend an astonishing (by Alabama standards) $8 million on behalf of Mr. Strange, a former federal lobbyist, and that does it — for many voters, Mr. Strange is an irredeemably slick, deal-making insider.

Against that stands Mr. Moore, whose past official ethics violations might look disqualifying outside Alabama, but at home were viewed by some as a badge of honor….

[The full column is here.]


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