The Republican Party lost a critical seat in the U.S. Senate Tuesday as voters in the deeply conservative state of Alabama elected Democrat Doug Jones in an upset race that could pose a challenge to President Trump’s legislative agenda.
Jones received 49.9 percent of the vote to Roy Moore’s 48.4 percent.
Write-in votes accounted for 1.7 percent.
A Democrat hasn’t won a major statewide election in Alabama in more than a decade, since 2006, when Jim Folsom Jr. won the lieutenant governorship. And no Democrat in Alabama has won election to the Senate in 25 years.
“I think I have been waiting, and now I just don’t know what the hell to say,” said a stunned Jones after his victory. “I’m overwhelmed.”
Calling it a “historic” day, Jones expressed gratitude to his family and friends.
“The people of Alabama have always had more in common than to divide us,” he said. “We have shown the country the way that we can be unified. … Folks we have come so far, we have come so far and the people of Alabama have spoken.”
Jones continued: “There are important issues facing this country. There are important issues of health care, and jobs and the economy. And I would like as everyone in the entire probably free world knows right now, we’ve tried to make sure that this campaign is about common ground and reaching across and actually getting things done for the people. So I have this challenge to my future colleagues in Washington: Don’t wait on me. Take this election from the great state of Alabama [which] said we want to get something done, we want to find common ground, we want to talk. And go ahead and fund that CHIP program before I get up there. Put it aside and lets do it for those million kids and 150,000 in Birmingham, Alabama. …
“Tonight is a night for rejoicing. As Dr. King liked to quote ‘the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, tonight in this time, in this place, you helped bend that moral arc a little closer to that justice.”
After Jones’ victory, President Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!”
Moore refused to concede Tuesday night, telling supporters he may seek a recount despite the vote tally that had Jones winning by more than 20,000 votes.
“It’s not over,” Moore said. “That’s what we’ve got to do, is wait on God and have this process play out.”
Moore, 70, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, had been in a tight and contentious race for a normally safe Republican seat with Democratic opponent Jones. That’s because several women accused him of pursuing sexual relationships with them more than 40 years ago when they were teens. Two woman accused Moore of sexual assault, and one claimed he groped her 26 years ago.
As WND reported, one of the women, Beverly Young Nelson, admitted to annotating a yearbook inscription she had offered as the best evidence of her claim, and the Moore campaign said the admission undermined her credibility. Another woman, Leigh Corfman, alleged that when she was 14, Moore took her to his home where he removed her clothes and touched her inappropriately while he wore only underwear. And Tina Johnson claimed he groped her in his law office in 1991, when she was 29 and Moore was married. Moore has denied any misconduct. In recent campaign speeches, Moore has claimed he didn’t even know any of his accusers.
According to exit polls, voters were split over whether they believed the allegations against Moore.
CNN reported: “49% said they were probably or definitely true while 45% said they were probably or definitely false.”
Most voters, or 57 percent, had determined who they would support before the sexual allegations against Moore were first reported in November.
Moore arrived at the polls Tuesday on his horse, Sassy, and wearing a cowboy hat. He was accompanied by his wife, Kayla, who was also on horseback. Moore cast his vote at the Gallant Fire Department in northern Alabama. He called on Alabama voters to “go out and vote their conscience.”
Moore had received support from both President Trump and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
“The nation is watching this,” Moore told reporters outside the fire department before casting his vote. “It’s a very important race for our country, for our state and for the future.”
Just a week ago, President Trump called Moore to offer his endorsement. He tweeted that “we need Republican Roy Moore to win” to enact the president’s agenda. On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted: “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. Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!”
On Friday, President Trump held a rally in Pensacola, Florida, just 20 miles from the Alabama border. Some analysts speculated Trump was trying to rally the Republican base in Alabama for Moore while keeping some distance from him. Trump carried the state by 28 points in the 2016 presidential election.
Jones, a former prosecutor who campaigned as a moderate Democrat, managed to pull off an upset victory that could send shockwaves from Birmingham to the Beltway.
Republicans’ Senate majority will now narrow to just 51-49, possibly imperiling the legislative agenda of President Trump and the GOP and putting the Senate majority in play next year. Jones’ win could endanger Republican plans for tax reform if a final bill isn’t passed before January.
As part of Jones’ strategy, he had planned to turn out black and young voters to give him an edge in large cities like Birmingham and Montgomery. He ultimately benefited from near-unanimous support from black voters, at 96 percent.
In Alabama, African-Americans represent roughly 23 percent of registered voters. In 2008, when Barack Obama was on the presidential ticket, Alabama saw its largest black Democratic turnout in history as African-Americans made up 29 percent of voters. Obama still lost the state to Sen. John McCain 60 to 39.
“I think they’ve seen, within Doug Jones, a partner for a long time,” said Jones, who became famous for prosecuting the KKK, said of Alabama’s black voters. “And they sure don’t see a partner in Roy Moore.”
As he voted, Jones referenced the two times Moore had been ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice, once for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building and another time when he said probate judges shouldn’t issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples.
“In Alabama we have come so far with too many things, and there is saying: ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ Alabama is not going to let that shame happen again,” Jones said.
Obama recorded a robocall for Jones, and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., campaigned alongside the Democratic candidate. A super PAC known as Highway 31, a project of national Democratic super PACs Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA Action, poured $4 million into the race for Jones.
Some Republicans and independents chose to cast write-in votes. Retired Marine Col. Lee Busby, a Republican, announced a write-in bid. And there was another coordinated effort to write in the name of Nick Saban, the University of Alabama football coach.