In a monumental and historic victory for the Democratic Party, Democratic candidate Doug Jones defeated his controversial Republican opponent Roy Moore in the 2017 Alabama Special Congressional Election. The election was for the seat of former Alabama Congressman Jeff Sessions, who vacated it after he was appointed Head of the Department of Justice by President Donald Trump. Jones’s victory marks the first victory for a Democratic Senate candidate in Alabama since 1992.
Jones, who won by fewer than 2% (49.9% to 48.4%), was carried by several key demographics. Cities throughout Alabama, in particular Birmingham and Montgomery, voted decisively for Jones. Additionally, while Moore won white voters of all genders and education levels, Jones won an overwhelming 96% of the black vote. Jones also received key support from voters under 44, with over 60% of them voting Democratic. Moore’s camp has refused to officially concede as of the morning of December 13, though he would have to demand a formal recount to contest the results, as the outcome was not within the 1% margin required to trigger an automatic recount.
The victory concludes a complicated and messy campaign, in particular for the Republican Party. Before the general election even began, the Republican primary garnered national publicity when Trump-backed candidate Luther Strange was defeated by Moore. Trump, in an effort to save face, subsequently deleted all of his pro-Strange tweets.
However, the real controversy began when numerous women stepped forward to accuse Moore of pedophilia and sexual misconduct, primarily during the late 1970s. The stories were corroborated by additional sources, and Moore’s level of denial fluctuated situation by situation, even in some cases admitting to knowing the accusers. However, not all voters believed the claims, and in many cases the issue served to only further divide Alabamians and Americans. President Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault himself in the past, actively campaigned for Moore, especially in the days leading up to the election. Additionally, many Conservatives in Alabama were quick to dismiss the allegations as “fake news” perpetuated by the liberal media in order to try and secure the seat for the Democrats.
Going forward, the victory lowers the number of Republican seats in the senate from 52 to 51, potentially imperiling many of the bills the Republican congress was looking to pass. Because the seat was won via a special election, there is no set date for Jones to be seated in congress. Democrats have been fervently pushing for Jones to be seated as soon as possible in order to improve their odds of blocking Republican legislature. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he had no intention to seat Jones until Congress’ next session, beginning early in January. Regardless, the situation will undoubtedly continue unfolding as we head towards the new year.