GOP candidate expects Roy Moore to announce Senate bid in June

Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreAlabama GOP gears up for fierce Senate primary clash Press: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Roy Moore loses lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen MORE hasn’t jumped into the 2020 Alabama Senate contest yet, but one potential GOP rival is already welcoming him into the race.

Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneTrump's Slovenia Ambassador Lynda Blanchard jumps into Alabama Senate race Mo Brooks expresses interest in running for Shelby's Senate seat Ex-Rep. Mike Conaway, former aide launch lobbying firm MORE (R-Ala.), who launched his Senate campaign in February, told The Hill he’s spoken to GOP sources close to Moore who said the controversial former Alabama judge will announce his candidacy for the Senate in the coming days.

“People who I believe know what they’re talking about say that Judge Moore intends to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in June. I welcome him to the race,” Byrne said in an interview.

Byrne said those conversations took place within the past week, though he has not personally spoken to Moore. A second member of the Alabama congressional delegation said he also has heard that Moore will announce he’s running for the Senate in June.

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Moore’s entry would shake up next year’s Senate race in deep-red Alabama, where incumbent Sen. Doug Jones is perhaps the most vulnerable Democrat of the 2020 cycle. Some recent polls have shown Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, leading the field for the GOP nomination.

But Republican officials in Washington have vowed to do whatever they can to stop Moore from winning the party’s nomination, worried that he would once again hand Jones a victory.

The 72-year-old Moore lost to Jones in a closely watched 2017 special election after multiple women publicly accused Moore of making sexual advances when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. At least one woman said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16.

The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on Moore’s predatory behavior toward young women. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week MORE (R-Ky.) said at the time he believed the women who accused Moore.

But Moore has denied the allegations, and earlier this month, his wife, Kayla Moore, sent supporters a fundraising email stating that her husband “is not only fighting back in court against those who conspired to destroy his political career, but is also seriously considering another run for the United States Senate!”

A Moore spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Asked if Moore could win the GOP nomination, Byrne replied that he could not.

“I think people are very concerned that we Republicans lost a U.S. Senate seat because he was our nominee in 2017 and we don’t need to do that again,” Byrne said in the interview. Moore's political baggage “hasn’t gone away.”

“There are some serious pieces of litigation that have come out of all that. I personally don’t want to talk about any of that; I want to talk about how we’re going to beat Doug Jones,” Byrne continued. “But I think it’s inevitable it’s going to come up in the primary campaign, and if he was the nominee, it certainly would come up in the general election.”

Moore is suing comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, plus Showtime and CBS, for $95 million over a segment in Cohen’s 2018 show “Who Is America” in which Cohen made it appear that Moore set off a “pedophile detector.”

Last month, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, a Reagan appointee, ruled in Cohen’s favor to have the case transferred from Washington, D.C., to a federal court in New York. That prompted Moore to call for Hogan’s resignation and for the ruling to be overturned.

Some conservatives are warning Moore to stay out of the race.

“Should Roy Moore run for the Alabama Senate Republican nomination, as with the previous attempt, he will not be successful and he will not receive the support of the Club for Growth PAC,” said Joe Kildea, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, an outside conservative group. “We are meeting with other candidates, and following interviews and polling will make an endorsement.”

In addition to Byrne, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville are running for the GOP nomination. Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Judge questions Trump's claim of 'absolute immunity' in Jan. 6 lawsuits Alabama GOP gears up for fierce Senate primary clash MORE (R-Ala.) has decided not to run, while Rep. Gary PalmerGary James PalmerGOP beginning to jockey for post-election leadership slots Alabama Republican touts provision in infrastructure bill he voted against Mo Brooks launches Senate bid in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.), a favorite of the Club for Growth, also appears likely to pass on the Senate race so he can remain on the House GOP leadership team.

Updated at 2:11 p.m.