- Alabama voters elected Democrat Doug Jones, upsetting the Republican favourite, Roy Moore, to be the state’s next US senator on Tuesday.
- Jones’ election is a significant – and improbable – blow to the GOP, which will now have just a one seat advantage in the Senate.
Alabama voters elected Democrat Doug Jones as the state’s next US senator on Tuesday in one of the most scandal-plagued political contests in recent memory.
Jones, a former federal prosecutor, won a stunning upset victory over Republican Roy Moore, who faces several accusations of sexual misconduct with teenagers but was nevertheless endorsed by President Donald Trump.
“I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than what divide us,” Jones said in his victory speech on Tuesday night. “We have shown the country the way that we can be unified.”
Moore refused to immediately concede Tuesday night, suggesting his campaign could pursue a possible recount. Alabama’s secretary of state suggested a recount would be unlikely to change the outcome of the race, the margin of which was 1.5 percentage points with 100% of precincts reporting.
The contest was the most competitive the deeply red state has seen in several decades, with high black voter turnout and low enthusiasm among traditionally Republican voters, many of whom were turned off by Moore’s alleged history of sexual misconduct and far-right ideology.
Jones will be the first Democrat to hold an Alabama Senate seat in more than two decades. His win is a huge blow to the GOP’s legislative future, reducing the party’s unstable advantage in the Senate to just a single seat.
The Democratic victory also eases the party’s challenging, but feasible path to taking back the Senate in 2018.
Once thought a long shot, Jones benefited from a large influx in outside donations, both from individuals and national Democratic groups, after the first misconduct allegations against Moore were reported by The Washington Post in November.
The Democrat raised over $US10 million in six weeks, as numerous celebrities and high-profile Democrats visited the state and partnered with his campaign.
Jones used the money to lead an aggressive voter turnout effort, targeting black communities and higher-income suburban whites disenchanted with Moore’s campaign. This combination of strong support from black voters and low enthusiasm for Moore among well-educated, affluent whites allowed Jones to piece together a winning coalition. The Democrat was also helped by more than 20,000 Alabamians who cast write-in ballots for third candidates.
While Moore denied the allegations of sexual misconduct, calling his female accusers politically motivated liars, dozens of prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said they believed the allegations and called on Moore to abandon the race in recent weeks.
Many Republicans breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday night and some openly celebrated Moore’s loss, which they view as an escape from a inevitable, damaging scandal. But Moore’s loss is nevertheless a major blow to the party’s legislative prospects and to President Donald Trump, who threw his full support behind the embattled candidate in recent weeks.
The president officially endorsed Moore in mid-November, writing off the allegations against him as old and unproven, and held a rally in Pensacola, Florida – miles from the Alabama state line – just days before the election, urging voters to support Moore.
“The people of Alabama will do the right thing. Doug Jones is Pro-Abortion, weak on Crime, Military and Illegal Immigration, Bad for Gun Owners and Veterans and against the WALL. Jones is a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning. “Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!”
Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, aggressively campaigned for Moore, along with other far-right GOP leaders, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka. And in recent days, McConnell reversed his position on Moore, saying that the decision on who to elect to the Senate seat should be up to Alabamians. The Republican National Committee also reinstated its support for Moore, even as other party leaders stood firm in their opposition to him.
In an unprecedented move just two days before the election, Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama denounced Moore, saying that the sexual misconduct allegations against him were a “tipping point” for him.
“I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore, I didn’t vote for Roy Moore, but I wrote in a distinguished Republican name, and I think a lot of people could do that,” Shelby said. “I think the Republican party can do better.”
Moore beat Sen. Luther Strange, who was selected to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in the GOP primary, despite having little support from the Republican Party, including Trump, who initially endorsed Strange.
Here are the results:
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