Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is racking up endorsements from inside the state and around the country for his challenge to Republican Sen. Luther Strange, but one in particular stood out: renowned — and deceased — conservative leader Phyllis Schlafly.
Schlafly died on Sept. 5, 2016, at the age of 92, two months before Donald Trump won the presidential election and four months before Republican Jeff Sessions left his Senate seat in order to become attorney general, yet she was included on the endorsements page of Moore’s campaign website.
“Phyllis Schlafly, Late President, Eagle Forum; inference of Ed Martin,” appeared on a long list of endorsements, below a separate endorsement by Martin, described as the president of the Phyllis Schlafly Center and “fmr GOP nominee, Attorney General of Missouri.” The list also included former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, actor Chuck Norris, “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, and numerous pastors and elected officials.
The story took another twist by Monday evening, when a reorganized endorsements page of the Moore campaign website did not include Schlafly. The campaign had not responded with a reason for the omission by the time this piece was published.
This is not the first endorsement from beyond the grave in a Senate race.
In a letter delivered just hours before his death in late 2012, Democratic Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii wrote to Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie asking him to appoint Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to succeed him. (Abercrombie appointed Democratic Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz instead and he defeated Hanabusa narrowly in the 2014 primary.)
But the Hawaii precedent is different from the situation in Alabama.
When asked for a press release announcing the Schlafly endorsement, a campaign spokesperson said there wasn’t a release (there have been regular releases about other endorsements) and provided a link to a Sept. 7 Breitbart News article about Martin’s endorsement.
“In 2015, Judge Roy Moore came to Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Council in St. Louis,” Martin said in a statement referenced in the Breitbart story. “He gave an amazing speech and Phyllis and I sat and watched in wonder: here was a man who understood — in his very bones — the fights we are facing: limited government, the role of judges, and the power of God! Phyllis admired Roy and his life and work. She believed in him. And so do I. Today, I endorse Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate! I believe in him and in his fighting spirit. We need him in the U.S. Senate.”
A few days later, the Schlafly endorsement was missing from the newly-organized page of endorsements.
Schlafly’s alleged endorsement of Moore is complicated, not just because of the timing and lack of specificity, but because of the battle over the late conservative activist’s legacy between Martin and her adult children.
Moore and Strange are locked in a competitive battle for the GOP nomination. They’ll face off in a debate Thursday (without a moderator) and President Donald Trump is scheduled to be in Huntsville, Alabama, on Friday for a rally to boost Strange’s prospects. The winner will face Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney, in a Dec. 12 election that is rated Likely Republican by Inside Elections.