Roy Moore

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore after Gov. Robert Bentley's State of the State address in Montgomery in 2016. Moore had been suspended as chief justice, and announced Wednesday he'd formally resign to seek election to the U.S. Senate.

MONTGOMERY — Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court justice who was twice ousted from office for defying higher courts, threw his hat into the ring for U.S. Senate Wednesday.

"Before we can make America great again, we have to make America good again." Moore said in a press conference on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol.

Moore is the fourth Republican to enter the race for the U.S. Senate seat that was vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed as the nation's attorney general earlier this year. He'll face current Sen. Luther Strange, state Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle and former Christian Coalition director Randy Brinson in a primary election in August. 

Moore, who lives in the Gallant community west of Gadsden, comes to the race with more name recognition than perhaps any Alabama politician. In the 1990s, as an Etowah County circuit judge he became a religious conservative icon for posting a copy of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom in the face of court challenges. As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003, he ordered the placement of a two-ton Ten Commandments monument at the court's headquarters, then refused a federal court’s order to remove it. A state judicial commission removed him from office for that. And it suspended him from the same office again in 2016, when Moore, who was re-elected to the high court in 2012, defied the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

Moore continued that anti-establishment stance in his announcement Wednesday, coming out against the Affordable Care Act and federal involvement in education.

"Socialized medicine and Common Core education are not in the power of our federal government,"  Moore said.

Moore pointed out that education is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, and said federal education programs are “used as an indoctrination of our children.”

“We’ve seen education continually being pushed on this state and what we teach our children,” Moore said.

As recently as last week, Moore insisted he was still the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and criticised the court system for suspending him without pay, saying the suspension left him without a means of financial support. At his Wednesday press conference, Moore said he’d filed paperwork to resign from the office. Alabama law doesn’t allow sitting judges to earn outside income or run for non-judicial offices.

State Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, an ally of Moore, announced by press release Wednesday that he’ll seek election in 2018 to the chief justice seat vacated by Moore.

Strange, the current Senator, was appointed to the office on an interim basis by former Gov. Robert Bentley, who stepped down from office amid an affair-and-cover-up scandal earlier this month. A former state attorney general whose office prosecuted a former House speaker on a corruption charge and reached a $1 billion settlement with BP over the 2010 oil spill, Strange has long been considered a strong candidate for higher office. His appointment by Bentley, who was under investigation by the AG's office at the time, had brought out some critics from within Strange's own party.

Among them is Henry, the state representative who spearheaded an effort to impeach Bentley. Earlier this week, Montgomery doctor Randy Brinson stepped down from his position as president of the Alabama Christian Coalition to announce his Senate run.

State Senate President Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said Tuesday that he's made a decision on a run, but won't announce his intentions until later.

"I've looked very hard at the governor's race and very hard at the U.S. Senate and I'm here to tell you today I've definitely made that decision, but I'm not ready to announce," Marsh said.

Pelham resident Ron Crumpton is so far the only Democrat who has announced a run for the Senate seat. Within an hour of Moore’s announcement, Crumpton sent a fundraising email calling Moore “worse than Luther Strange.”

“That’s right, the same Roy Moore who has been removed from the state Supreme Court twice,” the email read. “The same Roy Moore who made it his duty to persecute the LGBT community in the name of religious freedom.”

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.