What the Wackiest House Race in Alabama Tells Us About Republican Politics in 2024

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Update, March 6, 2024, 1:00 a.m.: It was a very close race—but Barry Moore eventually bested Jerry Carl in Alabama’s hyper-conservative 1st District Republican primary. Read on to learn why it was such a strange race.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, Alabama had to redraw its congressional maps last year in advance of the 2024 elections.

One result is that two incumbents—Jerry Carl of District 1 and Barry Moore of District 2—are facing off against each other this week in a race for the state’s southernmost district. That district, which Jerry currently represents, has shifted with redistricting from having a 15-point advantage for Republicans to a 28-point advantage, tying it for the sixth most conservative district in the U.S. House.

Now, there’s not a lot of meaningful difference between Barry and Jerry when it comes to the issues. Both were elected to Congress in 2020 and are in their second term. Both are Baptists who talk about faith values. Both have names that rhyme with dairy.

So Barry and Jerry are fighting about the only thing that could boost their bona fides—who’s Trumpier. It’s indicative of the biggest point of contention in many ruby red, right-wing districts: The Republican primaries are still inextricably tied to the oft-indicted former president and his various narratives.

In campaign ads, Jerry promises to “finish Trump’s wall,” “seal the border,” take on the “woke mob” and “gun grabbers,” bring back the “Trump economy,” and “make Washington more like Alabama.” Barry promises “Alabama values” and to “finish Trump’s wall.” Jerry vows to beat the “liberal nut jobs” in Congress. Barry identifies himself as “the garbage man you sent to D.C. to take out the trash.”

Barry tweets about farming, veterans, and Biden’s cognitive abilities. Jerry also tweets about farming, veterans, and Biden’s cognitive abilities. Barry’s pinned post on X calls to “CLOSE THE BORDER.” One of Jerry’s most recent posts lists recent crimes by immigrants.

Barry and Jerry both objected to the certification of the 2020 presidential election results. Both voted against the COVID-19 stimulus package. Both have limited their talk of local Alabama issues mostly to one specific bridge project in the state. (Barry is adamant that cutting federal funds for Ukraine could solve the state’s budget problems. Jerry thinks the state needs to allocate federal grants.)

Barry thinks Mexico should pay for the wall; so does Jerry. Jerry thinks Congress needs to send more money to Israel than to Ukraine; so does Barry. Barry thinks Biden should be removed from office. So does Jerry.

In short, there are really very few differences between the two on paper. Before running for office, Barry started a waste hauling company. Jerry started a health care equipment business and, later, real estate and lumber and timber companies. Barry wants a federal abortion ban; Jerry wants the states to ban abortion. Jerry has white hair; Barry, a more youthful silver.

Barry and Jerry also differ in their friends. Barry has pals in the House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene plans on joining him at a campaign stop. At a Barry–Jerry debate, Barry called Matt Gaetz a “friend of mine.”

Jerry, meanwhile, has implied that Barry is a sheep for allowing the Freedom Caucus to tell him how to vote. He went on the record at that debate as not “a Matt Gaetz fan.” Barry didn’t like that. “There are patriots in that room, and to call them anything less is an insult,” Barry said.

Their voting records are virtually identical, except that Barry voted against the bipartisan defense budget, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, saying he did not want to support the Democrats’ “radical agenda.” He argued that Jerry’s support for it meant that Jerry supported “abortion travel, sex reassignment surgeries, Biden’s radical climate initiatives, and a Pentagon DEI office.” Jerry said that voting against the bill was “about as un-American as you can get,” asserting that it was equivalent to voting against pay for the troops and a safe border. (They also differ when it comes to smaller pet projects; Barry, for example, introduced a bill to designate the “AR-15-style rifle” the “national gun” of the U.S.)

And Barry does a slightly better job of linking himself to Trump, despite Jerry’s best efforts. Both Jerry and Barry ran ads featuring clips of Trump saying their names, but only Barry was able to link his own legal troubles—acquitted in 2014 on charges of lying during a grand jury probe into the corrupt Alabama House Republican Mike Hubbard—to the former president’s. “Nine years ago today, we got the not-guilty verdict when the system itself came after us,” he said in the video announcing his campaign for District 1. “It was weaponized. It was politically motivated, the same that they’ve done to President Trump.” Barry signs off his campaign ads as “a Trump Republican for Congress.”

It doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, that their message is about the same: The border needs to be closed, the wall needs to be built, Trump needs to be protected, and Democrats need to be put in their place. It’s a contest to be the most MAGA, through and through.

And perhaps sadly, despite their similarities, Barry and Jerry don’t seem to be destined to be friends when all is said and done. Each has accused the other of having anti-Trump supporters. And at a debate when the two were asked to say something nice about each other, Jerry chose to go for the jugular:

Barry: “Everybody likes Jerry, and it’s unfortunate that we’re in this race. And so it’s a matter of differentiating records. But you can’t help but like Jerry. I like Jerry fine.”

Jerry: “If you want something nice, I mean, Barry’s got a good-looking Porsche and a nice condo in Washington.”