Alabama justice ousted over Ten Commandments may reclaim post

MOBILE, Alabama Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:28am EDT

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MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - The Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who was removed from office for refusing to take down a Ten Commandments monument appears well-positioned to regain his post in the November 6 election.

Republican Roy Moore became a hero for many conservatives after he was booted from the state's high court in 2003, and political observers say he has a solid chance at another victory in the heavily Republican state known for its Christian electorate.

The controversy over his previous ouster by a state judicial court does not appear to have hurt, political analysts say.

Actors Chuck Norris and Kirk Cameron have endorsed Moore, as have important Christian and farming groups. Alabama's Republican leaders are urging voters to maintain party discipline and decline to vote for Democrats.

The Democratic candidate, Bob Vance, suffers from poor name recognition, analysts say.

"It'll come down to whether voters will be willing to split their tickets," said Bill Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alabama. "But I have a hunch that Moore will win."

Those who believe in Moore believe in him strongly, as evidenced at a Tea Party rally last week at which Moore spoke.

Ron Lee, a retired chemical plant supervisor in Mobile, said there was no doubt in his mind that Moore would win due to his respect for "the laws of the land and for the constitution."

"He was railroaded out because of the Ten Commandments thing - it really just got too big for him," said Lee, a supporter who attended the rally.

Vance has raised more than twice as much in contributions as Moore but entered the race late and has little name recognition.

Vance, a circuit court judge in Birmingham who is married to the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, was selected to run after the state Democratic Party disqualified its original candidate in August for making derogatory statements about gays and immigrants.

Moore, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in Alabama in 2006 and 2010, pulled off a surprise defeat in the Republican primary in March of both the current chief justice and a former state attorney general who had been favored to win.

It was the first step in a political comeback for the 65-year-old former justice.

He received national attention for installing a 5,280-pound (2,395-kg) granite monument of the biblical codes in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery after his first election to the chief justice post in 2000.

The installation drew opposition from advocates of the separation of church and state and resulted in a legal challenge. A federal judge ruled Moore was placing himself above the law and violating the U.S. Constitution by refusing to remove the monument, and the Alabama Court of the Judiciary unanimously removed him from office.

Moore, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, has vowed that he will not bring back the Ten Commandments monument should he win back his old job.

At the rally in Mobile, he made little mention of the judicial race, instead focusing on what he said was the need for Americans to regain respect for the country and the military.

Moore also has spoken out against abortion and same-sex marriage, positions that have helped win him endorsements.

A poll released by the Vance campaign in September showed a tight race, with Moore leading 45 percent to 42 percent.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Daniel Trotta and Doina Chiacu)

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