— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A Jefferson County circuit judge signed up Monday to run as a Democrat for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, which could give Republican nominee Roy Moore a better-known opponent than he had just a few days ago.
The Alabama Democratic Party disqualified its nominee, Pelham attorney Harry Lyon, on Friday over critical statements the perennial candidate made about Moore, gays and supporters of gay marriage. The party started seeking a replacement candidate on Monday, when Robert Vance Jr. signed up, said party official Teresa Smiley. So far, he's the only candidate, but the deadline to enter is not until noon Wednesday.
If more than one candidate signs up, the State Democratic Executive Committee will pick a nominee.
Vance was not in his Birmingham office Monday afternoon and did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Lyon became the Democratic nominee because he was the only one to sign up for the race in January. State law allows a political party to disqualify a candidate and name a replacement.
Lyon said Monday a prominent plaintiff lawyer warned him a week ago that the Democratic Party wanted to replace him with Vance. In his usual outspoken style, he said, "may the Democratic Party rest in peace in the bowels of political hell."
Vance is the son of the late U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Vance, who was killed in 1989 by a mail bomb sent by Walter Leroy Moody, who was convicted of murder. The candidate is the husband of Joyce Vance, who was appointed U.S. attorney in Birmingham by President Barack Obama.
Moore was chief justice from 2001 to 2003, when a state judicial court kicked him out of office for refusing to abide by a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the state judicial building in Montgomery. He is attempting a political comeback after losing races for governor in 2006 and 2010.
Moore said Monday the Democratic Party's decision to change candidates near the end of the race will backfire.
"The people of Alabama won't be fooled. The last time the Democrats tried this in Alabama it failed, and this will too," he said.
Moore was referring to the 1986 governor's race, when the Democratic Party named Bill Baxley its nominee over Charlie Graddick, who got the most votes. Voters upset with the selection elected Republican nominee Guy Hunt to be Alabama's first GOP governor in more than a century.
The chief justice's race is one of four Supreme Court races up for election this year, but it's the only one where a Democrat signed up to run. Republican incumbents in the other three seats have no opposition in the general election Nov. 6.