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Politics

Democrat Doug Jones Defeats Republican Roy Moore In Alabama Senate Race

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John Bazemore
/
Associated Press
Doug Jones seen at a rally in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday, won the Alabama Senate race on Tuesday, according to AP projections.

Updated at 11:04 p.m. ET
Democrat Doug Jones has won the Alabama Senate special election, according to The Associated Press. The victory is a stunning upset in a deeply red state that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, who backed Republican Roy Moore explicitly in the final days of the campaign despite multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and assault.

The win by Jones is sure to send shock waves through Washington. The special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions was upended last month as multiple women came forward to say Moore had pursued them romantically as teenagers when he was in his 30s. Some alleged he had sexually assaulted them, including one woman who said he had initiated sexual contact with her when she was just 14. Moore has denied the accusations.

The unfolding controversy made what should have been a safe GOP race anything but. It's the first Democratic Senate victory in the state in 25 years, and now gives Republicans an even narrower 51-49 Senate majority that could imperil GOP legislative priorities in 2018.

And it's the first major electoral blow to Trump since his own upset victory just over a year ago, giving Democrats a special election win after several near-misses.

President Trump had come to Moore's defense, casting doubt on the women's allegations — much like he has with the multiple women who accuse him of sexual assault. While Trump didn't campaign with Moore, the president did hold a rally just across the border from Alabama in Pensacola, Fla., on Friday evening and recorded a robocall on his behalf, urging voters to choose Moore because he will support his agenda in the Senate. And after Trump endorsed Moore last week, the Republican National Committee reinstated its financial support for the GOP nominee after pulling it following the accusations.

Democrats were quick to point to that reversal by the RNC, and indicated they would use it as fodder heading into the 2018 midterms.

"Today, in one of the most Republican states in the nation, the people of Alabama chose common decency and integrity over partisan politics," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said in a statement."Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee did the opposite, siding with a candidate who wanted to drag Alabama back to the days of George Wallace and faced a mountain of credible evidence that he had engaged in child sexual abuse... President Trump, Republican Senate candidates and the Republican National Committee showed us exactly who they are by standing with Roy Moore — and we will make sure voters do not forget it."

Other national Republicans had been far less hospitable. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes Moore's accusers and called on him to step aside, though he has softened his stance in recent weeks by saying the choice is up to Alabama voters.

McConnell's allied superPAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, had spent heavily to support appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the primary, fearful that a Moore win would put the seat in jeopardy even before the sexual assault allegations against him surfaced.

Trump had backed Strange then, too, but Steve Bannon — his former chief strategist who has since returned to lead Breitbart News — supported Moore and rallied with him in the closing days. Bannon had long touted Moore as part of the "war" he had promised to wage on the GOP establishment, backing challengers to sitting incumbents who would take on McConnell and back Trump's agenda. But other national strategists warned Bannon's civil war would cost them winnable seats — something that came to fruition on Tuesday night.

"This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running," SLF President Steven Law said in a statement. "Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco."

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who is in charge of protecting the GOP's Senate majority in 2018, had withdrawn funding from Moore's campaign and at one point said he should be expelled from the Senate if he wins.

"Tonight's results are clear – the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate," Gardner said in a statement soon after Jones was declared the winner. "I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority."

Even the state's senior GOP senator, Richard Shelby, had admitted he didn't vote for Moore, saying "the Republican Party can do better" and revealing he had instead written in another candidate. Condoleezza Rice, a Birmingham native who served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush, cut a robocall in the race, not-so-subtly urging voters in her home state to "reject bigotry, sexism, and intolerance."

Jones is a former U.S. attorney who is best known for prosecuting KKK members decades later for the killing of four young African-American girls in a 1963 Birmingham church bombing — a background that likely helped him spur heavy black turnout that was critical for the Democrat to win.

Jones also ran a far more visible race than Moore in the final stretch. He had outspent Moore almost 10-1 and had an active campaign schedule, while Moore has been largely absent from the campaign trail in the final stretch — including leaving the state over the weekend to attend the Army vs. Navy football game in Pennsylvania. Jones also had an active field operation, while the GOP nominee's staff has been a skeleton crew.

Moore had remained defiant, however, using a very Trumpian strategy of running against the media and the D.C. establishment he says has conspired against him and are behind the allegations. And he won the GOP primary over appointed Strange earlier this year, despite being heavily outspent by both Strange and the Senate Leadership Fund.

But even before the accusations of sexual assault surfaced Moore was a controversial figure in Alabama politics who narrowly won election in the past and lost nominations for governor. He is a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who was twice removed from the bench, the first time for refusing to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments he'd had erected in the state judiciary building. Later, he was re-elected to the court, but then suspended after he directed state judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

Moore's Christian nationalist positions are something that he hoped would resonate with many of the state's white evangelical voters, and he never backed off his controversial positions against same-sex marriage and transgender rights.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.