Posted: December 12, 2017
By Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
HEFLIN, Ala. —
Alabama voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide the race for U.S. Senate between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, and the outcome is being closely watched across the nation.
No Democrat has been elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama since 1992, and President Donald Trump won the state by nearly 30 percentage points. But allegations that Moore pursued sexual relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s have rocked the race. He’s denied the claims.
Jones, a former federal prosecutor, has highlighted his opponent’s outspoken conservative views in his bid to energize the state’s Democratic base and flip suburban voters who typically vote for the GOP. Polls show a tight race, though special elections like the one Tuesday are notoriously hard to predict.
Moore is deeply popular with the state’s evangelical voters, a powerful voting bloc that has enthusiastically supported him in past statewide votes. In the closing weeks of the race, he’s had scattered appearances in rural churches while largely relying on supporters to defend him.
Here are five things to watch with Tuesday’s vote to succeed Jeff Sessions, whose seat became open when Trump tapped him to become U.S. attorney general:
1. It’s a big deal. Republicans now control 52 seats in the U.S. Senate, including the one held by Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill Sessions’ seat and was soundly defeated by Moore in September. A Democratic win would mean that Republicans could only afford one “no” vote to pass a Senate measure on party lines, since Vice President Mike Pence would break a 50-50 tie. Some Republicans fear a Moore victory could be equally unsettling for the party. Moore has repeatedly called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to step down, and he in turn has withheld his support and funding for the former judge’s campaign. And Democrats would look to tie Moore to a host of GOP candidates seeking office in the midterm elections in 2018, highlighting not only accusations that he’s a sexual predator but also his history of controversial statements.
2. The bombshell allegations. Allegations against Moore of sexual misconduct involving teenagers while a prosecutor in Etowah County, Alabama, from 1977 to 1982 have threatened to upend the race. Moore has denied the allegations while claiming media outlets and Washington status quo enforcers are trying to derail his campaign. The women have stuck by their stories, and several said they are willing to testify under oath. They have left GOP voters who are concerned by the allegations in a quandary, debating between supporting a candidate accused of being a sexual predator or sending a Democrat to Washington. Some could also stay home on Tuesday or write in a candidate.
3. Alabama’s rural base. The state’s rural Republican base holds outsized sway in Alabama, where grass-roots Republicans have helped ensure that no Democrat has been elected to major statewide office since 2006. But Moore’s margins as a statewide candidate show he has underperformed other Republicans. In 2012, he narrowly won a vote for Supreme Court chief justice even as Mitt Romney carried the state by 22 percentage points. And in his 9-point victory over Strange in the primary, Moore struggled in the affluent, conservative suburbs in Birmingham and Huntsville. Moore has tried to shore up his base by crisscrossing rural areas he hopes to carry by overwhelming victories, and his advisers expect enthusiastic turnout to mark the difference in Tuesday’s vote.
4. The key to a Democratic victory. Jones must rely on a two-pronged strategy to flip the seat. He needs Alabama’s black population – a predominantly Democratic voting bloc that accounts for about 27 percent of the state – to turn out in droves. Jones, who is white, has leaned on African-American supporters, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, to energize black voters in populous areas like Birmingham in the closing days of the race. He has also wooed voters in Republican-leaning suburbs in the outskirts of Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile in hopes of convincing them to vote across party lines – or not cast a ballot at all. Some suburban voters who have never cast Democratic ballots say they’ve proudly posted Jones signs in their yards.
5. How the election will affect the 2018 elections in other states. For example, although Georgia and Alabama are vastly different states, Peach State strategists are closely watching their neighbor for clues about next year’s elections in Georgia. Like in Alabama, Democrats in Georgia hope to flip independent voters in affluent suburbs who have fled to the GOP. And Republicans in both states see a path to victory through maximizing their advantage in rural areas. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, was among the black leaders enlisted to help Jones’ campaign across the state line. And Stacey Evans, a Democratic candidate for governor, has already made clear she intends to weaponize Moore’s campaign. She called on her GOP rivals to disavow Moore’s candidacy. None did so.
After sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in the weeks leading up to the Dec. 12, 2017, special election in Alabama, critics began lining up behind Democrat Doug Jones in the closely watched race.
In a dramatic turn of events, Jones pulled off a nailbiter of a win against Moore.
Here's what we know about Jones, a 63-year-old former federal prosecutor from Birmingham:
1. He became the U.S. attorney for Alabama's Northern District in 1997. President Bill Clinton appointed him to the post, which Jones held until 2001, according to NBC News.
2. Jones prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members behind the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four black girls in Alabama. In the early 2000s, Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton were sentenced to life in prison in the case, according to NBC News.
3. He was involved in prosecuting Eric Rudolph, who bombed a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998. That attack killed an off-duty officer. Rudolph also was behind the deadly 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.
4. He has spoken in support of Moore's accusers. “Those brave women are entirely credible; they’re telling the truth,” Jones said, according to Newsweek. “Moore will be an embarrassment to the people and businesses of Alabama, and if he makes it to Senate, he’ll continue to divide our country.”
5. He is against repealing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Jones also told AL.com that he supports a woman's right to choose to have an abortion but added: "The law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That's what I support." Read more here.
Sen. Richard Shelby prefers a write-in candidate for Tuesday’s special election in Alabama instead of Republican candidate Roy Moore, CNN reported.
“I'd rather see the Republican win, but I'd rather see a Republican write-in,” Shelby told CNN on Sunday. “I couldn't vote for Roy Moore. I didn't vote for Roy Moore.”
Moore has denied accusations of pursuing sexual relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s, CNN reported. He and Democratic candidate Doug Jones are in a virtual dead heat for the seat that was vacated when Jeff Sessions became Attorney General in President Donald Trump’s cabinet.
Shelby, a Republican, said he has no reason to doubt the women who have made the accusations and added that where there is “a lot of smoke, there's got to be some fire somewhere."
“(W)e call it a tipping point,” Shelby said. “I think, so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip -- when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can't vote for Roy Moore.”
Another accuser of Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has come forward with evidence that Moore knew her, despite his repeated denials that he didn’t know any of the nine women who have alleged he either made unwanted sexual advances toward them or pursued them when they were teenagers decades ago, according to the Washington Post.
Debbie Wesson Gibson, now 54, who said she met Moore when she was 17 when he came to speak to her high school civics class, told the Post she found a card the Republican candidate gave to her when she graduated from high school, proving that he did indeed know her very well.
Moore, 70, allegedly wrote “Happy graduation Debbie. I wanted to give you this card myself. I know that you’ll be a success in anything you do. Roy.”
Wesson Gibson said she dated Moore several times when she was underage and he was 34.
At a campaign event on Nov. 27, Moore, who first said he remembered several of the women, including Wesson Gibson, backtracked, the Post reported.
“The allegations are completely false. They are malicious. Specifically, I do not know any of these women,” Moore said.
The Washington Post used a handwriting expert to compare the writing on Wesson Gibson’s card with handwriting purportedly belonging to Moore in another accuser’s high school yearbook, and said the handwriting samples look similar, but a more in-depth analysis would be needed to say for sure.
Alabama voters go to the polls on Dec. 12 to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was appointed U.S. Attorney General.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Monday to back Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
President Donald Trump finally addressed sexual assault and harassment allegations against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore Tuesday while speaking to reporters ahead of his departure for Mar-a-Lago, essentially saying he supports Moore in spite of the accusations.
“We don’t need a liberal Democrat in that seat,” the president said, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant U.S. Senate seat that Moore is running for, and adding that Moore “totally denies” the accusations.
Trump also said, “40 years is a long time,” referring to when the alleged incidents with the underage girls happened.
The president went on to encourage voters not to support Democratic candidate Doug Jones, adding that he is soft on crime and on border protection.
While Trump did not say whether he believes Moore is innocent, he did suggest he’s deciding whether to campaign for him.
Trump’s comments came on the heals of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s apparent endorsement of Roy earlier this week.
“I’m telling you we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” Conway said. “And the media — if the media were really concerned about all these allegations, and that’s what this was truly about … Al Franken would be on the ash heap of bygone half-funny comedians. He wouldn’t be here on Capitol Hill. He still has his job. What’s Bob Menendez doing back here? That’s the best my state of New Jersey can do?”
Moore has been accused by seven women of sexual misconduct. With the exception of one woman who was 18 at the time, all of his accusers were underage when he allegedly sexually harassed or assaulted them with the youngest being just 14 years old at the time. One of his accusers was even in the same high school sophomore class as his wife, whom Moore admitted to first noticing when she was 15 or 16-years-old when she was performing in a dance recital.
“When I was deputy district attorney, many years before we got married, I saw her at a dance recital and I was standing, oh, at the back of the auditorium and I saw her up front,” he recalled at the time. “I remember her name, it was Kayla Kisor. KK. But I remember that and I didn’t meet her there … it was, oh gosh, eight years later or something, I met her. And when she told me her name, I remembered.”
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