The Alabama Republican Party stuck with Roy Moore until the bitter end last year, even as accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls sunk his Senate campaign.
Now the party has another mess on its hands: Jim Bonner, who shares the last name of a well-known political family in the state and is known for his racist and anti-Semitic social media posts, could be poised for an upset in next week’s primary for a seat on a regulatory board.
Republican leaders are handling this race quite differently. On Tuesday night, their candidate committee issued a public censure and condemnation of Bonner’s campaign.
“Mr. Bonner's recent comments on his social media as well as radio shows are not condoned by the Alabama Republican Party,” state party chair Terry Lathan said in a statement announcing the strong and unequivocal rebuke. “Mr. Bonner is welcome to his opinions and his First Amendment right of free speech. The Alabama Republican Party is welcome to our opinion as well, and we reject the egregious comments Mr. Bonner continues to spew. Furthermore, the ALGOP Candidate Committee unanimously urges Republican voters in the June 5 primary to NOT cast votes for Jim Bonner for the Public Service Commission, Place 1."
Moore — even before last year’s misconduct allegations, which he denies — also had a history of making incendiary and offensive comments. The former judge has said that homosexuality should be illegal, that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress, and that 9/11 might have been a punishment for the United States turning away from Christianity.
But ditching Moore after he beat establishment-backed Luther Strange in the primary did not even appear to be a consideration until after the Washington Post broke the first stories about Moore and his accusers. A 21-member state party steering committee discussed the scandal at a mid-November meeting, and then reaffirmed support for Moore’s candidacy: "Alabamians will be the ultimate jury in this election — not the media or those from afar,” Lathan said then.
So what makes Bonner different from Moore? Party officials won’t elaborate.
“At this time our statement speaks for itself regarding this current situation," an Alabama Republican Party spokesperson replied via email to BuzzFeed News.
Bonner’s Facebook posts, which have been reported in detail by the Alabama Political Reporter website, are peppered with offensive content: “I’m sorry I called you a fat stripper. Everybody knows you are not a stripper,” read a post from April. “Eight more days and black history month will be over for another year,” read another from February. Then there’s a February 2017 post that shows an image of Adolf Hitler on a note that says “my love for u burns like 6,000 jews” — “Awwwww I got a Valentine!!!!” Bonner wrote alongside the photo.
The Alabama Political Reporter also noted examples of Bonner liking and defending the use of the n-word.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Bonner said he does not consider himself anti-Semitic or racist.
Bonner, who is challenging Republican incumbent Jeremy Oden in the primary, also believes he’s being targeted because he vows to be tough on the utilities the board regulates: “Roy Moore was a moral issue, not a money issue. They can stand a little moral disenfranchisement.”
But Bonner also said he welcomes the attention the censure and condemnation bring.
“Bless their hearts,” he said. “I couldn’t buy this kind of publicity.”