Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale said he supports Alabama GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore "until he’s found guilty of a crime" and praised his public service in a Thursday radio interview.
Rosendale is regarded as the NRSC’s top pick in the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018, and his campaign has suggested Rosendale would support McConnell if elected to the Senate.
Rosendale also has the backing of the Club for Growth, Steve Bannon and the pro-President Donald Trump outside group Great America Alliance.
He’s not the only GOP Senate candidate this cycle enjoying support from what are often seen as competing factions in the party. But his most recent comments on Moore are yet another example of the complicated Republican alliances that are shaping House and Senate races in 2018.
Rosendale’s campaign said on Friday that his stance on Moore is unchanged from the statement he released weeks ago.
“The reports about Roy Moore are serious and troubling criminal allegations. If proven true, Roy Moore needs to step aside and deal with these allegations through the legal system and not play them out in a political campaign,” Rosendale said.
Appearing on Voices of Montana with Jon Arneson on Thursday, Rosendale shied away from condemning Moore.
“You are innocent until proven guilty. And if folks have come forward, whether it is judge Roy Moore or whether it is anyone else and they have evidence to convict someone of a crime, then they should go through the legal process and do so,” Rosendale said.
“And I do not believe in holding the court of public opinion, you know, to hold folks out there and destroy their name or reputation before they have had their legal process, their due process accommodated,” Rosendale continued.
He went on to praise the public service career of Moore, who was twice removed from his post as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
“As far as Judge Roy Moore, to me, it looks like the actions that he has taken as his public service, over the last I would guess 20, 30 some odd years has been honorable and I would commend him for that,” Rosendale said.
The radio host then asked Rosendale to clarify that he would support Moore unless he’s proven guilty of committing a crime.
“There you go, that’s exactly how I feel,” Rosendale said.
Alabama no longer has a statue of limitations for sex offenses involving victims under 16, but it only applies to crimes committed after 1985.
Like Rosendale, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has support from both so-called establishment Republicans and Bannon in his bid for the GOP nod to take on Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
His statements about Moore have put the burden of proof on Moore. “Unless he can give rock solid evidence that these claims are false, he should get out of the race,” Hawley said last month.
Rosendale, a former state legislator who moved to Montana in the early 2000s, recently picked up the backing of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. Both senators had endorsed Moore but later pulled their support for the controversial Senate nominee. Montana Sen. Steve Daines also pulled his support of Moore.
McConnell has said he believes the women accusing Moore and has said Moore should expect to face an Ethics Committee investigation if he comes to the Senate. But the majority leader has recently sounded resigned to the fact there’s nothing he can do prevent Moore from being on the ballot on Dec. 12.
“The president and I of course supported somebody different earlier in the process. But in the end the voters of Alabama will make their choice,” McConnell said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
In Alabama, opposition to McConnell has been a cornerstone of Moore’s campaign.
Trump pledged his support for Moore in a phone call earlier this week, and the Republican National Committee is now back in the race for the former judge.