No matter what you call it—a rebuke or a repudiation of President Trump and his former strategist Steve Bannon—folks in Alabama are calling it a victory for Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore Tuesday evening in a very important special senate election. By a narrow margin of 1.5 percent, Jones defeated Moore, who has been accused of child molestation. There were more than 20,000 write-in votes for neither candidate.
“I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than divide us,” Jones told his cheering supporters in the ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in Birmingham. “This campaign has been about the rule of law,” Jones said. “This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state…is going to get a fair shake in life.”
Thanks to a larger than expected Black vote, Jones was able to overcome formidable odds in a typical Republican district in a red state. Although Jones didn’t mount an aggressive campaign to get the Black vote, many Black voters remembered how successful he was as a federal prosecutor in cases against Klansmen accused in the bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed four Black girls in 1963.
If the margin of victory remains the same—and with most of the precincts counted Jones tallied 671,151 votes to Moore’s 650,436 votes—a recount is avoided since a narrower margin of 0.5 percent is required.
Even so, at midnight Moore had not conceded a race that is a devastating blow to the GOP, soon with only a two margin in the Senate once Jones, 63, is sworn in, and that was one of the reasons Trump invested so much time and interest in the race.
“I think Doug Jones’ victory represents what’s right with Alabama,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “That blue dot just got a lot bigger.”
As expected, Trump rationalized the defeat in a tweet Wednesday morning. “The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the general election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”
Countering Trump’s tweet was a barrage from the Democratic ranks, including tweets from Hillary Clinton and Sen. Cory Booker, who had campaigned in Alabama for Jones.
“Thank you Alabama and thank you Doug Jones,” Booker tweeted. “I am so proud tonight that the great state of Alabama gave the whole country a needed renewal of hope and the first ray of light of a rising sun and a coming new day. Let’s savor this victory and then let’s get back to work.”
That work is sure to center on what appears to be a referendum on Trump and the GOP, particularly as both parties marshal their resources for next year’s midterm elections.