MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Booted from office and not listed on any ballots, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (search) could still be a major player in the state's primary June 1.
Supporters of the "Ten Commandments judge" have lined up to run for one congressional district and all three state Supreme Court seats up for election this year.
"The public is tired of politicians professing certain beliefs and not acting on those beliefs," said Tom Parker, Moore's former legal adviser, who now is trying to unseat Associate Justice Jean Brown in the Republican primary.
"They want elected officials who have the moral courage to do what they will say they will do when they're running for election," he said.
But it's unclear whether Parker and other conservative Christians can ride into office on a bandwagon built for Moore, who rose to national prominence last summer for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments (search) monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. He eventually lost his job because of his refusal.
"Judge Moore doesn't have very large coattails," said Larry Powell, a political pollster and professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "He went too far when he refused to obey the court order, and that was sort of a turning point and his popularity has been dropping ever since then."
Carl Grafton, a political science professor at Auburn University Montgomery, was less sure.
"I have to think that the Moore acolytes are better organized" than their opponents, Grafton said. "In the primaries, where the turnout is so low, intensity of feeling and organization often trumps numbers on the other side."
The other side is generally thought to be the state's business community.
The Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee (search), composed of a couple dozen business groups, has endorsed Brown and two other Republican judicial candidates in races against Moore followers. But even those candidates are reluctant to brand the race as the GOP's business wing vs. its religious wing.
"I reject the notion that this is the Christians vs. the non-Christians here or Christians vs. the business community because I have been a Baptist Sunday school teacher for almost 20 years," Brown said.
She has been targeted by some Moore supporters because she and the seven other associate justices voted to overrule Moore and comply with the court order to remove his monument.
"My faith is a very important part of my life," the first-term justice said.
Montgomery County District Judge Peggy Givhan, running against a Moore-supported candidate and two others for a Supreme Court seat, voiced at least partial agreement with the ousted chief justice's stance.
"I'm sure that (Moore) has just the finest motives to call attention to the eroding values in America," Givhan said. "But as judges, we do take an oath to uphold the law."
Birmingham attorney Phillip Jauregui, who represents Moore, is challenging an entrenched Republican congressman in the GOP primary.
Jauregui, who argued Moore's appeal of his ouster before a special Supreme Court panel, is tackling six-term U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, a steadfast conservative in his own right.
Moore has attended a rally for Jauregui and he may do more campaigning before the election. While Jauregui said his campaign isn't about Moore, he echoes Moore's call for restraining the power of federal courts.
"The biggest issue that we're dealing with in America today is that the most important decisions policy-wise ... are not being made by policy makers. They're being made by judges," he said.
Moore has refrained from endorsing any of the candidates, which he was prohibited from doing as a sitting judge. He has, however, issued statements of support for Parker, Jauregui and two other Supreme Court candidates -- Pam Baschab and Jerry Stokes.
"I can't predict the future, but I can tell you that people are very upset over the past actions of state officials, to include the governor and justices of the Supreme Court, who have chosen to blindly follow a federal court order to remove the acknowledgment of God from Alabama," Moore said in a statement.
Moore also remains coy about his own political future, though some observers said his decision may hinge on the success of his followers in the primary.
"If the Moore faction wins three or four of those seats, and especially if Parker beats Brown, I think the perception will be ... that the church faction of the Republican Party is now more powerful at the ballot box in Alabama than the business faction of the Republican Party," said Jess Brown, a government professor at Athens State University.
But if all four lose, Brown said, "I think you're going to have to conclude that Chief Justice Moore has more political baggage than political advantage, and that his political fortunes in Alabama might not be too good."
Grafton agreed that the outcome will have a large bearing on the GOP's future in traditionally conservative Alabama.
"I hate to use a cliche," he said, "but this is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party."