By Miriam Raftery
December 13, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – By a slim 1.5% margin, Democrat Doug Jones, a prosecutor, won Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat over Roy Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court Justice. Moore’s race was marred by allegations from numerous women who claimed sexual improprieties by Moore, including alleged sexual assault of a 14-year-old when he was in his 30s. Moore has denied the allegations.
The victory means Republicans will have only a 51 to 49 majority in the U.S. Senate after Jones is sworn in. If even a single Republican votes with Democrats or is absent, Republicans could only secure passage by having Vice President Mike Pence cast a deciding vote. If two members defect or are absent, key measures such as legislation or judicial appointments could be blocked.
Moore was removed as a justice for refusing a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument in the courthouse but was later reelected, when he encouraged other judges to defy a same-sex marriage ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. He later resigned. Moore’s controversies include ties to white nationalist racist organizations, and his racially charged answer when asked to name a time America was greatest: ”…I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another...”
Moore also once stated that abolishing all amendments after the 10th amendment to the Constitution would “eliminate many problems.” Eliminating amendments after the 10th would mean losing the right of women to vote, the rights of African-Americans to vote, citizen rights for African-Americans, and other key protections for citizens enshrined in the Constitution.
Heavy turn-out among African-Americans helped deliver the election for Jones, a federal prosecutor best known for prosecuting Ku Klux Klan members who killed four African-American little girls in a church bombing.
The victory comes as a stinging rebuke of President Donald Trump, who endorsed and campaigned for Moore. Some other prominent Republicans distanced themselves from Moore, including Alabama’s other Republican Senator, who said he cast his vote for an independent candidate, and Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flakes, who endorsed and gave money to Jones.
Democrats, buoyed by the outcome, are hopeful of reclaiming control of the Senate and possibly the House of Representatives in next year’s November 2018 midterm elections. Republicans, meanwhile, are gearing up to try and push through tax reforms before Jones is seated. Jones will fill a vacancy left by former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions' appointment as U.S. Attorney General.
Whether the victory by a Democrat in deep red Alabama is a mere anomaly due to the controversies swirling around his opponent, or whether the reflects a rejection of political extremism that could extend to other regions, however, remains to be seen.