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'Stuck in the Middle': New Write-in Candidate Emerges as Roy Moore Scandal Roils Alabama Voters


Alabama Republicans are facing a big decision. The U.S. Senate race to fill the seat left by now Attorney General Jeff Sessions is just a couple of weeks away.

As the controversy rages over sexual harassment accusations against Republican Roy Moore, Democrat Doug Jones is hoping to win over some Republican voters in one of the reddest states in the nation. 

It's been 25 years since a Democrat was sent to Washington as the U.S. senator from Alabama.

Zen McCrary, a Democratic pollster from the Cotton State, said Jones must focus on issues that cross party lines and will "never have good math" if he presents it as a "D″ versus "R″ battle.

"He's fighting real muscle memory among much of the white electorate," McCrary said.

Now both candidates face another challenge in the heated contest. 

A retired Marine Corps colonel from Tuscaloosa has launched a long-shot write-in campaign as an Independent with just two weeks left in the race. 

Lee Busby, 60, who once served as an aide to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, has no political experience and no campaign framework. 

The retired officer with 31 years of military service is hitting the media circuit and counting on social media to spread the word about his campaign. 

Busby told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" in an interview Tuesday that winning is "doable," and he thinks he'll draw support from voters who aren't satisfied with either Moore or Jones.  

"I think you can flip this thing. If this were a military operation, the left flank and the right flank are heavily guarded," Busby told The Washington Post. "I think that gives you an opportunity to run straight up the middle."

"I just don't believe that either one of them are qualified to be in the U.S. Senate," Busby said of Moore and Jones.

As to the allegations against Moore, Busby said he has not made up his mind about the truth.

"It has created enough distaste in my mind," he told the Post. "As a voter, I don't need to get to the bottom of it." 

Under Alabama state law, write-in candidates are allowed on ballots as long as the candidate is living. 

Moore is counting on reliable GOP voters to send him to Washington. He's also working to keep disenchanted Republicans from staying at home. 

Moore won his last statewide election with 51 percent before the allegations of sexual misconduct. While serving as state chief justice, he defied a court order to move a Ten Commandments monument out of the state Supreme Court building in 2003 and was removed from office.   

After he won the election to the same job, he was permanently suspended last year for telling state judges to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples in direct defiance of federal courts.

The Associated Press interviewed Republican voters who feel caught in the middle.

Kathie Luckie of Hoover said she typically votes Republican but is struggling with the decision of whether to vote for Moore or stay home.

She says she's not a Moore fan but, "I do believe it's important for a Republican to get into the office."

Harold Cook, 67, says he usually votes Republican but he might consider a write-in this time.

"I'm not sure we need to go back to people who defy the law. The state has been through this before with the governor in the 1960s," Cook said. "I'm tired of seeing Roy Moore on the news."

On Sunday, President Donald Trump entered the fray when he inferred it was a typical partisan fight between campaigns. Trump's tweets criticized Jones and said it would be a "disaster" if a Democrat won the Alabama race.

David Mowery, a political consultant, said Trump's words might ring in Republican ears who were considering staying away from the polls. "I think it does affect certain voters," Mowery said.  

The race narrowed when multiple women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct decades ago. Several of them were teenage girls at the time. Moore has denied the allegations.

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