Controversies Surrounding Roy Moore Chill Alabama Business Community’s Zeal for Politics

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the Alabama Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, is having trouble securing the support of some in the state’s business community after sexual-misconduct allegations against him surfaced in recent weeks.
Judge Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the Alabama Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, is having trouble securing the support of some in the state’s business community after sexual-misconduct allegations against him surfaced in recent weeks.

The Alabama business community is on the sidelines of the state’s high-stakes Senate special election, with some leaders refusing to back Republican nominee Roy Moore because of concerns that the controversies dogging his candidacy could be bad for the local economy.

After seeing its favored candidate, incumbent Republican Sen. Luther Strange, lose in the GOP runoff election, the Business Council of Alabama hasn’t endorsed Mr. Moore. One of the group’s most important allies in Washington, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, has cast a write-in ballot for another, unnamed Republican. The deluge of money that usually comes from national business coffers of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has dried up.

Some business leaders worry that controversies engulfing Mr. Moore, including recent allegations that he sought relationships with teenage girls, will damage the state’s image as Alabama tries to attract major businesses such as Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters. Mr. Moore denies the allegations that stem from his alleged actions that happened mostly he was in his 30s.

“I don’t think it is good for our image to have all the controversy and negativity going on around Roy Moore’s candidacy,” said Neal Berte, president emeritus of Birmingham-Southern College and a member of the Birmingham Business Alliance executive committee. ”You have to think if you were interested in either relocating or expanding your business, this would not be good for Alabama.”

The Moore campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment about its business support.

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The Democratic candidate, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, is trying to woo business support in advance of the Dec. 12 special election to choose a successor to Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate to become Attorney General.

“Roy Moore is an extreme and divisive candidate who would hurt economic development in Alabama,” said Jones spokesman Sebastian Kitchen.

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Polls suggest that the race is tight enough that small shifts in voting blocs could affect the outcome. The average of polls by the nonpartisan Real Clear Politics website puts Mr. Moore up by 2.5 percentage points—within the margin of error of most polls. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race a tossup, after having viewed it as a solid Republican win as recently as late September. Another wild card: Some voters may write in another candidate. Lee Busby, a retired Marine Corps colonel, has mounted a long-shot write-in campaign.

Mr. Jones is still facing a…

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