After Special Election, Alabama Will Send Democrat To Senate For First Time In 25 Years

Dec 13, 2017
Originally published on December 13, 2017 8:14 pm
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Republican Roy Moore still refuses to concede yesterday's race in Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones. The state's election chief said today that ballots that are still uncounted will not likely end up changing the result. Jones pulled off a stunning upset, becoming the first Democrat the state is sending to the U.S. Senate in 25 years. In a news conference today, Jones said he received a call from President Trump congratulating him on his win and inviting him to the White House. He also outlined his vision going forward.


DOUG JONES: I think that this election shows that people across this country want to see people work together. When the people of Alabama elect a senator who runs on a platform of trying to find common ground and reaching across aisles, I think that's a message that both political parties should take heed.

SIEGEL: NPR's Debbie Elliott joins us from Montgomery. And Debbie, this is Jones' first elected position. What can you tell us about him?

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Well, it's the first time he's run for public office, but he's no stranger to politics. He's been active in Democratic Party circles for some time. He's a former federal prosecutor appointed by President Bill Clinton. He's best known for reopening the 1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where four black girls were killed. Here's Jones after he won a murder conviction in that case in 2001.


JONES: We believe that this is the correct verdict. It's late. They say that, you know, justice delayed is justice denied. Well, folks, I don't believe that for an instant. Justice delayed is still justice, and we've got it right here in Birmingham tonight.

ELLIOTT: Now he's talking again about the arc of justice, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.

SIEGEL: Well, what can we glean from Doug Jones' campaign and his record that would tell us what kind of senator he might be?

ELLIOTT: Well, the crux of his campaign was really that he would be a counter to the bitter partisan divide that we've been seeing in Washington. He has served there briefly at a time when Southern Democrats held great power. Jones, when he got out of law school, went to work for then-Alabama Democratic Senator Howell Heflin, whom he considered a mentor.

Today he's close with former Vice President Joe Biden. But he keeps saying he's not going to be a party man. Here's the speech that he made last summer to Alabama's county commissioners. This was before the Republicans had even picked their nominee.


JONES: I am my own man, and I intend to be an independent voice for Alabama not really encumbered by allegiances to a president or even a party leader but someone who wants to build bridges.

ELLIOTT: You know, he talks a lot about bridging divides, whether they be racial, political or economic. And it comes from his background. He comes from a working-class background, a family of steelworkers and coal miners. The kind of issues that he talks about are raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, funding the Children's Health Insurance Program. But he also tapped some of the positions that might bring some moderate Republicans into his fold, things like gun rights and working for a strong military.

SIEGEL: Let's talk a moment about Roy Moore, the Republican candidate who has yet to concede. What's next for him? Is this the end of Roy Moore's political career?

ELLIOTT: Well, it's hard to recover from the kind of allegations that he faced. But this is Roy Moore. He's used setbacks in his career as a platform to both raise money and gain support often out of Alabama in Christian conservative circles around the nation. I spoke with his brother Jerry Moore last night, and here's how he sees this thing playing out.

JERRY MOORE: If he don't win, it's God's will for him not to win. But I can tell you this. I've known him. We've grown up together one year apart. And I'm just going to tell you right now. Every time it looked like the door closed on him, a greater door opened.

ELLIOTT: So the question is, what door now? Alabama has a governor's race next year, and the Senate seat is up again in 2020.

SIEGEL: NPR's Debbie Elliott - Debbie, thanks.

ELLIOTT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.