Former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones defeated Judge Roy Moore yesterday after a hotly-contested and controversial special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Because of his improbable victory, he becomes the first Democrat to win election to the United States Senate from Alabama since 1992.
639,088 people voted for Jones, representing 50 percent of the vote. Moore received 49 percent, with 629,749 votes. Roughly two percent of Alabama voters, 22,019 of them, wrote in a candidate.
Former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley appointed Luther Strange to fill Sessions’ former seat and set the special election for 2018. After Bentley resigned from office, new Governor Kay Ivey moved the special election to this year. A crowded Republican field emerged quickly, with Moore eventually defeating Strange in a runoff and Jones winning the Democratic primary. The Republican primary turned divisive quickly, with the national Republican Party pouring in funds to back Strange and Strange receiving an endorsement from President Trump as well. This made little difference to Alabama voters who overwhelmingly chose Moore to represent them in the general election.
A month before the general election, The Washington Post dropped the bombshell allegations that Moore preyed on teenage girls when he was an Assistant District Attorney in his early 30’s. More allegations surfaced in the following weeks and the nation’s attention turned to the race. President Trump stated his support for Moore and former Trump aide Steve Bannon threw his weight behind Moore’s candidacy. Moore vehemently denied the allegations, only to see his support begin to fade and Jones pick up momentum. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby said that he wrote in the name of a “distinguished Republican” and the party stopped funding Moore, though they resumed their support the week before the race.
Pundits expressed their surprise at the large turnout for a special election in December. Close to half of Alabama voters made their way to the polls. The high turnout, especially among minorities and young voters, pushed Jones over the edge. Jones scored victories in all four of Alabama’s major metropolitan counties–Jefferson (Birmingham,) Mobile, Madison (Huntsville), and Montgomery. He also won Lee and Tuscaloosa counties, which are home to the University of Alabama and Auburn University. In addition, he won many rural counties in south Alabama that have served as Democratic strongholds.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill explained that provisional ballots and overseas ballots will be counted the week before Christmas, with the vote being certified sometime the next week. Jones’ margin of victory is higher than the percentage required for an automatic recount. Merrill said Moore’s campaign can ask for a recount, but he doubts that it would change the vote count by over 20,000 votes.
Roy Moore’s stance on the Ten Commandments, gay marriage, and his pledge to “bring America back to God” received prominent billing in the election, with many white evangelicals continuing to support him after the allegations against him surfaced.
A significant number of evangelicals ultimately pulled away from Moore, however, either writing in a candidate of voting for Jones instead. Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky appeared on CNN after the results last night and offered an appraisal of how evangelicals responded to the election. He said, “An incredible amount of evangelical Christians said this was a bridge too far,” adding, “It’s nothing less than stunning.” He further explained to Don Lemon that in Alabama, “You didn’t have any major pastors or evangelical leaders (within the state,) not a single one, willing to support Roy Moore.”
Christianity Today reports that evangelical share in yesterday’s vote was 44 perfect, compared to 47 percent in 2012. Also, 26 percent of pro-lifers voted for Jones in spite of his support for abortion.
Many Christian leaders from outside of Alabama did support Moore. Robert Jeffress appeared on Fox and Friends Monday, saying that Christians have to choose between “forty-year-old allegations” and Jones’ evident promotion of pro-choice policies. Franklin Graham also spoke in support of Moore, tweeting yesterday, “Praying for Roy Moore.” Neither has spoken about the results.
Jones will likely be sworn into office in early January to complete Sessions’ term. He will have to seek reelection in 2020.
Photo: A supporter of Democratic U.S. Senatorial candidate Doug Jones holds a sign as he watches election returns during an election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones is in a tight race with Republican challenger Roy Moore to fill Attorney General Jeff Session's seat.
Photo courtesy: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Publication date: December 13, 2017