Ten Commandments Judge Roy Moore is trailing Gov. Bob Riley 2-to-1 in the race for Alabama’s Republican gubernatorial nomination June 6.

A Mobile Register/University of South <Alabama poll released Sunday showed Riley widening his lead over the former state chief justice. Fifty-six percent of likely Republican voters supported Riley, compared to 28 percent for Moore and 16 percent undecided.

Both men are Southern Baptists, but Riley lost support of many conservatives in 2003, when voters rejected his $1.2 billion tax plan. Riley had appealed to born-again citizens to vote to raise their own property taxes out of Christian duty to shift a regressive tax burden off of the poor.

Moore, meanwhile, achieved martyr status in 2003, when he lost his job as Alabama chief justice for defying a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had placed in the state Supreme Court building. The state judicial ethics panel termed it “willfully and publicly” putting himself above the law.

Moore announced his candidacy in October. A January 2005 poll found him ahead of Riley 43 percent to 35 percent, before either candidate had officially decided to run.

Riley’s stock rose, however, as Alabama’s unemployment dropped to record low levels and tax collections for public education climbed to record highs.

Riley raised $3.8 million last year and also took out a $1 million loan. Moore, meanwhile, received donations from 2,214 individuals in 49 states, but they totaled just $310,578, with more than 2,000 giving less than $100 each.

Testing waters for a gubernatorial run last summer, Moore spoke at a pastor’s conference at the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn.

He continues to be a sought-after speaker outside of Alabama. The University of the Cumberlands (formerly Cumberland College), invited him to give the inaugural First Corbin Financial Corporation Center for Excellence on March 28. Located in Williamsburg, Ky., the school is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

The center, established last year with a $50,000 gift from former college professor Terry Forcht and his wife, Marion Forcht, owners of First Corbin Financial Corporation, is for development of leadership, character and citizenship.

“We’ve instituted a lecture series which is to debut in March,” university President Jim Taylor said in a press release. “We’re excited to present former Chief Justice Roy Moore as our first speaker.”

Most of Riley’s gain comes from the drop in undecided voters. They made up 31 percent of the October poll but now stand at 16 percent. Even more significant for Riley, the bump puts him above the 50 percent threshold needed to win the primary.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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