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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — With Alabama officials certifying Doug Jones' win in the U.S. Senate election, Republican Roy Moore has few options left to turn back a defeat that he has yet to concede.
The state's Republican governor, secretary of state and attorney general on Thursday certified Jones' win by 21,924 votes, a margin of 1.6 percent, over Moore. Jones is scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 3, when Congress returns from break. Jones' win came after Moore was dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls that occurred decades ago.
In a Thursday statement, Moore seemed close— or at least closer — to acknowledging his loss but stood by his assertion of fraud in the election that saw him battling both deep-pocketed Democrats and establishment Republicans.
"I have stood for the truth about God and the Constitution for the people of Alabama," he said in a statement. "I have no regrets. To God be the glory."
He filed a last-minute lawsuit Wednesday night claiming he was the victim of "systematic voter fraud" in an unsuccessful bid to stop the election's certification. A judge dismissed the complaint. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican who said he voted for Moore, said his office has so far found no evidence of voter fraud in the election.
Merrill said Moore could pay for a recount at his own expense or launch another lawsuit seeking to toss out the result. He could also ask the Senate not to seat Jones, but that is unlikely because President Donald Trump and other Republicans have said Moore should concede.
Moore's attorney and campaign chairman did not return telephone messages asking if Moore would pursue additional action.
Jones is a former U.S. attorney best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for Birmingham's infamous 1963 church bombing. As he launched his campaign, he said he saw an opening for a rare Democratic win against Moore, a polarizing figure who was twice removed as the state's chief justice after thwarting federal court orders regarding the public display of the Ten Commandments and same-sex marriage.
"As I said on election night, our victory marks a new chapter for our state and the nation," Jones said Thursday. "I will be an independent voice and work to find common ground with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get Washington back on track and fight to make our country a better place for all."
Angi Horn Stalnaker, a Republican strategist who ran previous campaigns against Moore, said it should not come as a surprise that Moore is not following the standard post-election script of conceding a loss and wishing his opponent well.
Moore previously blamed his two ousters from the court on those he said didn't like his push to "acknowledge God" with a Ten Commandments monument and a "politically motivated effort by radical homosexual and transgender groups," who targeted him because of what he called his "outspoken opposition to their immoral agenda."
"His whole shtick relies on martyrdom," Stalnaker said. "The big fat Republican establishment joined up with the big fat hippy dippy liberals, and 'Once again look at me, crucified on the cross.'"
The ink was barely dried on certification papers before speculation began on what Moore might do next — whether taking additional steps in a legal war or running for another state office, such as governor, in 2018. The Alabama Republican Party opens qualifying for the 2018 races on Jan. 8.
"I think they should expect it to happen as much as they expect the sun to come up tomorrow," Stalnaker said of the possibility of Moore's name appearing on another ballot.