Democrat Doug Jones beats Trump-endorsed Republican Roy Moore for Alabama Senate seat

The stunning upset by Jones makes him the first Democrat elected to the US Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century and will trim the Republicans’ already narrow Senate majority to 51-49.

world Updated: Dec 13, 2017 21:09 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Senate elections,Doug Jones,US Senate
Democratic US Senator-elect Doug Jones greets supporters during his election night gathering at the Sheraton Hotel on Tuesday in Birmingham, Alabama. (AFP)

In a major setback to Donald Trump, a Republican endorsed by the US president despite the many allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour against the candidate, was projected to lose the Senate race in Alabama, a deeply conservative state that last elected a Democrat 25 years ago.

Roy Moore, who had been abandoned by most of his own party leaders, was projected by US media on Tuesday to lose to Democrat Doug Jones in a battle that wasn’t a battle until the allegations of sexual misconduct began surfacing, including by a woman who was underage at the time.

But Moore, who was running to fill a seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions who is Trump’s attorney general, refused to concede the race and said in brief remarks that the votes were still being counted — write-in votes, absentee ballots — and that he would “wait on God and let this process play out”.

Trump was not going to wait though. “Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory,” he tweeted.

“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!”

But he did seek personal vindication in the poll outcome, adding in another tweet on Wednesday morning that he had supported Moore’s Republican rival in the primaries because “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!”

White House watchers said Moore’s defeat could test the president’s relations with his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had advised him to back the Republican candidate, which he did despite stiff opposition from some in his own family, such as daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump.

After initially holding back his endorsement, Trump had come to fully embrace Moore, arguing that if the allegations were proven, the Republican candidate should step aside.

Until then he had the president’s support because he needed every vote in the Senate to push his legislative agenda, which has had an iffy run thus far.

Trump broke with most members of his party including the senior Republican senator from Alabama Richard Shelby who had announced they would not vote for Moore. Jeff Flake, a Republican senator from Arizona, publicly announced he had donated to Doug Jones’ campaign.

Jones, a former US attorney who had prosecuted two members of the Ku Klux Klan for a 1963 bombing of a church in which four African Americans girls had been killed, will be the first Democrat Alabama has sent to the US senate since 1992, once state officials certify the election.

His upset victory, if it happens as projected, would owe as much to Moore’s deeply flawed candidacy as to the Democrats cranking up their party machine to pouring money and resources sensing a chance, howsoever small at the time, of victory. The turnout of African Americans proved critical in the end.

The stunning victory in Alabama was being seen as another sign of a resurgent Democratic party buoyed by the sweep in Virginia, a swing state, and New Jersey, a state the party snatched back from Republicans in November.

Moore, a former judge known for extreme right views on African Americans, Muslims and Jewish people and LGBTQ, was hit by slew of allegations of sexual misconduct by women from the time he was a prosecutor. One of his accusers was only 14 at the time she said she was assaulted.

He has denied the allegations.

First Published: Dec 13, 2017 09:46 IST