Deep-red Alabama has elected a Democrat to the US Senate for the first time in 25 years: Civil rights attorney Doug Jones will be going to Washington after defeating Republican Roy Moore.
For much of the race, Jones lived in Moore’s shadow. Even before Moore was embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal, he was known for his fundamentalist and far-right Christian views on same-sex marriage and abortion — as well as his opposition to Muslims serving in government and his belief that portions of the country are already under Sharia law.
Like Moore, though, Jones has been a known entity in Alabama for some time. He is a longtime prosecutor and former US attorney from Birmingham, best known for prosecuting notorious cases, especially that of Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry — the two Ku Klux Klan members who were finally convicted in 2001 of murdering four little girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963. Jones also led the prosecution of domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph.
And compared to Moore’s antics throughout the campaign, Jones kept a much lower profile on the national stage. He tried to avoid talking about the allegations against Moore at his campaign events, preferring to stick to issues like jobs and health care.
Jones is a moderate red-state Democrat who had been careful to keep his distance publicly from the national party and not appear too closely aligned with Democratic leadership in Congress, especially trying to appeal to Alabama’s conservative Democrats and independent voters. One of the main lines of attack on Jones came from President Trump, who frequently tweeted that Jones would be a “puppet” of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
But as the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel pointed out in a profile, many of the issues Jones espouses point to a progressive agenda.
For instance, Weigel wrote, Jones is against the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding from going to abortions, and has indicated he would support Medicaid expansion in his state. He also made it clear he wasn’t going to serve in the vein of previous Alabama senator and current US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“People don’t want a lap dog for Mitch McConnell, but they don’t want an attack dog, either,” Jones told Weigel. “Unfortunately, Jeff Sessions’s voice is what people think of when they imagine the typical Southern politician. And that’s not true. There’s a lot of folks on the other side who might be concerned about the rollback of civil rights we could see under Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department.”
Jones was always a good candidate — but he was a long shot
As Vox’s Matt Yglesias wrote, Jones was a strong candidate from the beginning. But at first, it looked like the national Democratic Party was hesitant to challenge Moore in a state many believed would stay inevitably red:
To win statewide in Alabama, a Democrat would need to thread the difficult needle of securing a strong black turnout while also appealing to at least a slice of the state’s very conservative white population. A former prosecutor whose “tough on crime” record includes toughness on notorious civil rights criminals offering a modest but sensible platform focused on pocketbook issues is probably just about the best Democrats could hope for.
Eventually, the Democratic apparatus started getting more serious about Jones. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee jumped into action, helping to mobilize field teams on the ground in recent weeks.
Even as Moore dominated the national headlines, increased campaign contributions from Democrats, Super PACs, and outside donors combined helped Jones blanket the airwaves with campaign ads up to election day. In fact, Jones raised $11.5 million in individual contributions since May — more than double the $5.2 million raised by Moore, according to federal campaign finance data.
On Tuesday night, all of those efforts paid off in a historic night for Democrats.
“We have come so far, and the people of Alabama have spoken,” Jones said in his victory speech Tuesday night. “It has never been about me; it’s never been about Roy Moore; it’s about you.”