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Retired Marine Corps general launches write-in campaign in Alabama U.S. Senate race

Report: Democrat Doug Jones outspending Republican Roy Moore 7-to-1 on TV

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BIRMINGHAM (CFP) — Just two weeks before a special election to pick Alabama’s next U.S. Senator, Lee Busby, a retired Marine Corps colonel and one-time aide to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, has launched a last-minute write-in bid for the seat as an independent.

In another development in the race, Democrat Doug Jones’s campaign has outspent embattled Republican nominee Roy Moore by a whopping 7-to-1 margin on television ads in his quest to become the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Alabama in 25 years, according to a report in Politico.

Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Lee Busby

Busby told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that he got into the race because he was dissatisfied with choosing between Moore, who has been accused of sexually pursuing teenage girls, and Jones, a former federal prosecutor from Birmingham making his first bid for political office.

“I felt like there was a lot of people in Alabama who felt like me,” Busby told the network. “The more I talked to [people], the more sense I got that there was this huge swath in the middle that feels like they’re not represented.”

Since announcing his write-in candidacy on November 27, Busby said he has been the target of a deluge of criticism on social media from Moore supporters angered by his candidacy.

“I’m either a Democratic agent or a lackey of [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” he said.

Busby told MSNBC that he is a registered Republican but did not support Moore during the GOP primary, well before the sexual pursuit allegations surfaced.

“I don’t know Roy Moore. I’ve never met him. But there’s a sense of self-righteousness that comes out of that campaign that bothered me, and I don’t think it represents the majority of Alabama voters,” he said.

Busby, who lives in Tuscaloosa, served 31 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Reserve, reaching the rank of colonel. After leaving the military, he has focused on his work as a sculptor, creating memorial busts of service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While in the military, Busby served as vice chief of staff to Kelly, the retired Marine general who is now Trump’s chief of staff.

Since allegations against Moore became public on November 9, Trump has refused to condemn him, instead offering pointed criticism of Jones on Twitter. However, the president has so far stopped short of traveling to Alabama to campaign with his party’s nominee.

By contrast, McConnell and most of the Republicans in the Senate have called on Moore to exit the race, even though the deadline had passed to remove his name from the ballot.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Five women have come forward to say that Moore, now 70, made advances toward them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers. One of the women, Leigh Corfman, said Moore initiated sexual contact with her back in 1979, when she was just 14.

Moore has denied the allegations and resisted pressure from Republicans to drop out of the race.

The most recent public polls, taken before Busby’s entry, have shown the race between Jones and Moore within the margin of error, which means that the polls can’t offer a conclusion as to which man is ahead. The competitiveness of the race is shocking sight in Alabama, where Republican Richard Shelby won by 28 points in 2016 and Democrats didn’t even run anybody against Republican Jeff Sessions in 2014.

Just as shocking is the disparity on the TV airwaves, with Jones airing more than 10,000 ads since the primary, compared to just 1,000 for Moore, according to figures compiled by Advertising Analytics and reported by Politico.

National Democrats had been wary of putting resources into the long-shot Alabama race, but money began pouring into Jones’s campaign after Moore won the GOP primary and the allegations against him surfaced.

The special election to fill the Senate seat is December 12.

The Alabama seat became vacant in February, when Sessions resigned to become U.S. attorney general. Republican Luther Strange was appointed to fill the seat but failed to hold it when Moore challenged him in the GOP primary to pick a nominee for a special election to elect a permanent replacement.

Moore was a controversial figure even before the allegations about his alleged sexual pursuit of teenage girls surfaced. He was twice elected as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and removed both times, first for defying a federal  judge’s order to remove a 10 Commandments display at the state judicial building in Montgomery and then for encouraging local officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling mandating marriage equality.

In 2006 and 2010, he ran poorly in GOP primaries for governor. But in the special election, he was able to parlay unhappiness with the Republican establishment in Washington into a win over Strange, who was backed by Trump and McConnell.

Watch Busby’s full interview with MSNBC:


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