MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - In a stunning victory aided by scandal, Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama's special Senate election on Tuesday, beating back history, an embattled Republican opponent and President Donald Trump, who urgently endorsed GOP rebel Roy Moore despite a litany of sexual misconduct allegations.
It was the first Democratic Senate victory in a quarter-century in Alabama, one of the reddest of red states, and proved anew that party loyalty is anything but sure in the age of Trump. It was a major embarrassment for the president and a fresh wound for the nation's already divided Republican Party.
The victory by Jones, a former U.S. attorney best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for Birmingham's infamous 1963 church bombing, narrows the GOP advantage in the U.S. Senate to 51-49. That imperils already-uncertain Republican tax, budget and health proposals and injects tremendous energy into the Democratic Party's early push to reclaim House and Senate majorities in 2018.
Thank you ALABAMA!!— Doug Jones (@GDouglasJones) December 13, 2017
Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2017
Still, many Washington Republicans viewed the defeat of Moore as perhaps the best outcome for the party nationally despite the short-term sting. The fiery Christian conservative's positions have alienated women, racial minorities, gays and Muslims - in addition to the multiple allegations that he was guilty of sexual misconduct with teens, one only 14, when he was in his 30s.
A number of Republicans declined to support him, including Alabama's long-serving Sen. Richard Shelby. But Trump lent his name and the national GOP's resources to Moore's campaign in recent days.
Had Moore won, the GOP would have been saddled with a colleague accused of sordid conduct as Republicans nationwide struggle with Trump's historically low popularity. Senate leaders had promised that Moore would have faced an immediate ethics investigation.
Jones takes over the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The term expires in January of 2021.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have expressed hopes of scheduling a vote on their tax legislation before Jones is sworn in, but lawmakers are still struggling to devise a compromise bill to bridge the divide between the House and Senate legislation that can win majority support in both chambers.
The Republican loss also gives Democrats a clearer path to a Senate majority in 2018 - albeit a narrow one - in an election cycle where Democrats are far more optimistic about seizing control of the House of Representatives.
Ultimately, Tuesday's contest came down to which side better motivated its supporters to vote. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said turnout likely would not exceed 25 percent of registered voters.
Jones successfully fought to cobble together an unlikely coalition of African-Americans, liberal whites and moderate Republicans.
"This is an important time in Alabama's history, and we feel very confident where we are and how this is going to turn out," the Democrat said after casting his ballot Tuesday.
On the ground in Alabama on Tuesday, those who stood in line to cast their ballots were far more focused on the candidates than the broader political fallout.
Teresa Brown, a 53-year-old administrative assistant, said she preferred Jones, in part, because he would be better positioned to work across party lines. "We don't need a pedophile in there," Brown added.
She was among more than two dozen people queued up in the chilly morning air at Legion Field, a predominantly black precinct in Birmingham, to cast their ballots. Al Bright, 63, who does refrigeration repair, said he voted for Moore.
"Regardless of the allegations against him, I believe he is an honorable man," Bright said.
Mary Multrie, 69, who works in a children's hospital, disagreed.
"He's not a truthful man," 69-year-old Mary Multrie said of Moore. Multrie wasn't influenced by accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore, she said, because she already did not like him. "He talks about God, but you don't see God in his actions."
Moore, who largely avoided public events in the final weeks of the race and spent far less money on advertising than his opponent, bet big - and lost - on the state's traditional Republican leanings and the strength of his passionate evangelical Christian supporters.
He sidestepped questions about sexual misconduct as he arrived at his polling place on horseback.
Democrats were not supposed to have a chance in Alabama, one of the most Republican-leaning states in the nation. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton here by nearly 28 points just 13 months ago. Yet Moore had political baggage that repelled some moderate Republicans even before allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced.
Virtually the entire Republican establishment, Trump included, supported Moore's primary opponent, Sen. Luther Strange in September. Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was one of the only early high-profile Moore backers.
Moore was removed from his position as state Supreme Court chief justice the first time after he refused to remove a boulder-sized Ten Commandments monument at the state court building. The second time, he was permanently suspended for urging state probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
In his final pitch before polls opened across the state, Jones called the choice a "crossroads" and asked that "decency" prevail.
"We've had this history in the past, going down the road that ... has not been productive," Jones said. "We've lagged behind in industry. We've lagged behind in education. We've lagged behind in health care. It's time we take the road that's going to get us on the path to progress."
Read his full remarks:
Thank you. Thank you. Everyone, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, my. Folks, I got to tell you, I think that I have been waiting all my life and now I just don't know what the hell to say. Let me -- if you will indulge me just a moment -- [CHANTING FOUR MORE YEARS ] No, let's just get sworn in first before we -- folks, I'm overwhelmed but I want to already -- let me first make a couple of kind of brief comments.
You know, I have said throughout this campaign that I thought that December 12 was going to be a historic day. But -- but I got to tell you, and you know where I'm headed, December 12 has always been a historic day for the Jones family. This is, as you know, mine and Louise's 25th wedding anniversary. My running mate, my partner. I could not -- I could not have done this without her. The love, support, and the encouragement. Earlier in the evening when she just kind of kicked me in the rear end when I was down. So this has been a wonderful night.
I got to thank my family. I've got my wonderful sons, Carson, Christopher. My daughter, Courtney. My beautiful granddaughter. Her son-in-law, Rip. All these friends back here. US attorney buddies. My mom who couldn't make it here. My dad who's here with us in spirit who's too ill, and unfortunately my sister, Terry, and her husband, Scott, Terry Savage and Scott Savage, hey girls, thank you, thank you. She couldn't make it, either. I am truly overwhelmed. I am truly, truly overwhelmed.
But, you know, folks, and you have all heard me say this at one point or another in this campaign, I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than to divide us. We have shown not just around the state of Alabama but we have shown the country the way that we can be unified.
We have spent so many hours, I have got so many people that I can thank, but I will tell you just very quickly, there are three people that I want to acknowledge tonight because if it wasn't for them, we would not be here. They're the folks that sat me down in early May and said, Doug, you can do this, and they showed me the way. And I want to make sure that everyone in this room -- we had an incredible staff.
It started with a small group of folks, Jess and Wade and Trey and Garrett. But the three people I need to acknowledge before I go any further, I have the greatest political consultant in the world in Joe Trippi. I know you're tired of seeing my ads, but they were all Joe's work and he showed me the way. Doug Turner, we've been friends for so long, showed me the numbers. And then the one that I called the Yoda of the campaign, Giles Perkins. Giles has had his own issues to deal with over the summer, but this campaign and what he has done is whenever the history is written about Alabama politics, remember those names, Giles Perkins, Doug Turner and Joe Trippi. There are so many -- there are too many people here.
I want to just say this, folks, we have come so far. We have come so far and the people of Alabama have spoken. They have said we -- they have said to each other that this, I have said from the very beginning this campaign has never been about me, it's never been about Roy Moore. It has been about every one of you, every one of you and your sons and daughters. It's all of those volunteers that knocked on 300,000 doors. It's the volunteers who made 1.2 million phone calls around this state.
It's those volunteers to make sure that we knew, it was every community. You know, I keep hearing about the different communities in this state. The African-American community, thank you. My friends -- my friends in the Latino community, thank you. To all my Jewish friends, happy Hanukkah. We have built this everywhere we have gone. We have had that same energy. We've had that same excitement.
At the end of the day, this -- this entire race has been about dignity and respect. This campaign -- this campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of which ZIP code you live in, is going to get a fair shake in life. And let me just say this, folks, to all of those -- all of my future colleagues in Washington, to all -- I had such wonderful help.
But I want to make sure, in all seriousness, there are important issues facing this country, there are important issues of health care and jobs and the economy. And I want to -- I would like, as everyone in the entire probably free world knows right now, we've tried to make sure that this campaign was about finding common ground and reaching across and actually getting things done for the people.
So, I -- I have a challenge, I have this challenge to my future colleagues in Washington. Don't wait on me. Take this election from the great state of Alabama -- let me finish. Take this election -- take this election where the people of Alabama said we want to get something done, we want you to find common ground, we want you to talk. Take this opportunity in light of this election and go ahead and fund that ChIP program before I get up there. Put it aside and let's do it for those million kids and 150,000 here in Birmingham, Alabama.
I'm not going to talk too much longer. It's been a long night. It's been a long campaign, but let me -- no, let me -- let me just say -- let me -- I know I've forgotten so much. I've forgotten so much, so many thank yous and how we feel. This vote -- this vote, I've said it before, Alabama has been at a crossroads. We have been at crossroads in the past. And unfortunately we have usually taken the wrong fork. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, you took the right road.
That's exactly -- [CHANTING USA] on a very personal level, let me tell you, and I said this at the top and I do mean this, it seems -- I want to thank each of you for helping me fulfill a lifelong dream of serving in the United States Senate that started out with my mentor, Howell Heflin and ever since then, that has been my dream. Thank you for that.
So as we approach this history -- as we approach this crossroads, we have work to do. We have work to do in this state. To build those bridges within this state. To reach across with those that didn't vote for us to try to find that common ground. I'm pledging to do that tonight, but I will tell you, tonight is a night for rejoicing because as Dr. King said, as Dr. King liked to quote, "The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice." Tonight, tonight, ladies and gentlemen, tonight, tonight in this time, in this place, you helped bend that moral arc a little closer to that justice and you did it, not only was it bent more, not only was its aim truer but you sent it right through the heart of the great state of Alabama in doing so. Thank you, all. I love you. Thank you. Thank you. And God bless you and God bless the great state of Alabama and the United States of America. Thank you, all. Thank you. Thank you.
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