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Alabama showdown looms between Carl and Moore

Republicans face each other in March 5 primary after court-ordered redistricting

Alabama Reps. Jerry Carl, left, and Barry Moore are battling each other in the 1st District Republican primary on March 5 after a new court-ordered map changed the makeup of Moore’s 2nd District.
Alabama Reps. Jerry Carl, left, and Barry Moore are battling each other in the 1st District Republican primary on March 5 after a new court-ordered map changed the makeup of Moore’s 2nd District. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The member vs. member primary in Alabama between GOP Reps. Jerry Carl and Barry Moore is exposing a growing rivalry as it enters its final week. 

The Super Tuesday contest will end the congressional career of one of the lawmakers, who are both in their second terms. In advertisements, both men have sought to paint themselves as more conservative, in a ruby-red district that former President Donald Trump would have won by 50 percentage points in 2020. 

The faceoff comes after Alabama adopted a new congressional map that moved Moore’s hometown into the 1st District that Carl represents after the Supreme Court said the state must give African American voters two districts, instead of just one, where they can influence the election of a representative. 

National issues have mostly dominated the primary, said Thomas Shaw, an associate professor of political science and director of the USA Polling Group at the University of Southern Alabama. Carl has appeared to go after Moore more directly through attack ads, while Moore has emphasized his Freedom Caucus ties on the campaign trail. 

“Both seem to be trying to position themselves as the most MAGA of the two candidates,” Shaw said, using the shorthand for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. “And I think Carl’s attacks have really attacked at that, but I think Moore is probably sitting a little better with the public right now in terms of his reputation in that regard.”  

While local issues haven’t been a primary focus of either candidate, Moore released an ad last week touting that he has not voted for any supplemental funding for Ukraine and instead argued that funding should go toward infrastructure projects, including a needed bridge in the district that has long struggled to get funding. 

“In two years, Congress sent twice as much money to Ukraine than it spent on every federal road and bridge project in America,” he said in the ad. “Think about that, folks. If we just put America first, we can have the roads and bridges we need with no tolls.”

Moore has also tried to align with Trump, calling himself a “Trump Republican for Congress” in one ad while calling issues like “Biden’s open border” and “billions to Ukraine” garbage. 

Carl, meanwhile, has run ads criticizing “liberal nutjobs” while touting his work to pass legislation to address the border crisis and saying he’s stood up to the abortion lobby and gun control groups. 

But another ad from Carl’s campaign more directly attacked Moore on taxes, which have become an issue in the race. The ad labels Moore a “tax cheat” and says he supports a 30 percent national sales tax, seeming to reference Moore’s support for a measure that would replace the income tax with a “consumption tax,” among other proposed changes to the tax code. The two campaigns have also fought about their candidate’s respective tax records. 

Trump himself hasn’t weighed in on the race. He previously backed both Carl and Moore in their 2022 reelection campaigns, at the time saying they both had his “complete and total endorsement.” 

Each candidate has also drawn support from House allies, according to Federal Election Commission filings that were updated last week ahead of the primary election. House colleagues have contributed at least $45,800 to Carl’s campaign and $37,300 to Moore’s as of Feb. 14, 2024. The filings indicate that Moore’s closest allies are fellow members of the Freedom Caucus, while Carl has drawn support from members more aligned with House GOP leadership. 

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise gave $14,000 to Carl. Rep. Mike D. Rogers, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was the only member of the Alabama delegation to contribute to either rival, giving $5,000 to Carl’s campaign. The other members who have given to Carl’s campaign were House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, Florida Rep. María Elvira Salazar, Arkansas Reps. Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman, Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson, Louisiana Rep. Julia Letlow, Ohio Rep. David Joyce, Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse and Oklahoma Rep. Stephanie Bice. Additionally, former Alabama Rep. Bud Cramer donated $1,000 to Carl through his leadership PAC.

Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith donated $5,000 apiece to both Carl and Moore. 

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a founder of the Freedom Caucus who campaigned with Moore earlier this year, initially contributed $2,000 to his campaign and later gave another $5,000. Other members of the Freedom Caucus have also given to their colleague, including Reps. Warren Davidson, Troy Nehls and Andy Biggs, who all endorsed Moore earlier this week. Missouri Rep. Eric Burlison, North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop, Florida Rep. Bill Posey, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke and Illinois Rep. Mary Miller also all gave to Moore. 

Outside groups have also been weighing in on the race. According to FEC filings as of Thursday afternoon, groups supporting Carl and opposing Moore spent $923,000. Groups supporting Moore and opposing Carl spent $853,000. 

The Club for Growth’s School Freedom Fund is among the groups backing Moore. The Club for Growth, a conservative group that has a complicated history with Trump, backed Moore in previous campaigns, but Moore had initially said he’d forgo their support this campaign. The School Freedom Fund, an affiliated group, spent $139,000 supporting Moore and $422,000 opposing Carl. 

“Jerry Carl has a long voting record of opposing school freedom and putting the judgment of radical education bureaucrats ahead of parents,” David McIntosh, president of the School Freedom Fund, said in a statement. “Meanwhile Barry Moore has consistently supported school freedom and parent rights, and he is the only true America First candidate who will take on the radical left with President Trump.” 

A separate group, the South Alabama Conservatives PAC, is reported spending $595,000 against Moore.

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