Alabamans went to the polls on December 12 to select a replacement for Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate, bringing the unusual Roy Moore–Doug Jones contest to a dramatic conclusion. It was a race marked by sexual misconduct accusations against Moore, some of which involved underage teenagers, and the involvement of President Donald Trump, who lobbed condemnatory tweets in Jones’ direction.
As a result, the election could have consequences beyond the borders of Alabama when it comes to defining Republicans’ positioning on the sexual harassment allegations that have swept from Hollywood to Washington D.C. You can see constantly updated live election results and developments below. The polls close on December 12, 2017 at 7 p.m. central time.
Experts say the race is incredibly difficult to predict. Moore, the Republican, has led in almost all recent polls (he was up an average 2.2 percentage points by election day), but one did show a tie and another showed Democrat Doug Jones up by 10. The volatility in polling was attributed by some experts to the fact that Moore was polling better with online and automated pollsters, whereas Jones performed better when live pollsters were asking the question. Before sexual misconduct accusations broke against Moore, Alabama was considered a reliably Republican state that had not elected a Democrat to the Senate for 20 years.
According to the New York Times, “Strong support for Roy S. Moore, the Republican, is expected in rural, mostly white parts of the state and in its northern half. The Democrat, Doug Jones, aims to create a lead in the urban counties that include Birmingham and Montgomery, and across a band of largely black counties.” The Times added: “One critical battleground is a trio of smaller, whiter cities: Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville. Mr. Moore won a hard race in 2012 by keeping things close there. Mr. Jones hopes to win the cities by a convincing margin.”
That Jones has made the race competitive contributes to the drama. The last Democrat to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate was Howard Heflin, who served from 1979 until 1997. It’s possible that some voters simply don’t want to tell pollsters they are voting for the controversial Moore. However, turnout was considered the wildcard in the race, including of African-American voters expected to vote heavily for Jones.
“The race is so peculiar and has so many variables that some pollsters are reluctant to say” who will win, reported Politico. FiveThirtyEight also stressed caution when trying to predict the race. “There’s a massive spread in results from poll to poll — with surveys on Monday morning showing everything from a 9-point lead for Moore to a 10-point advantage for Democrat Doug Jones,” the site reported, also chalking it up in part to the different polling formats and how each candidate performs with them.
Moore, the former state Supreme Court justice who was removed over his Ten Commandments monument defiance, was hammered with a series of accusations that he made overtures to teenage girls, and, in one case, had sexual contact with a 14-year-old. He fervently denied the allegations, and highlighted one accuser’s admissions that she wrote part of a yearbook entry she said he signed. However, Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, came out in strident defense of her husband, although her own comments on the campaign trail (such as saying, “one of our attorneys is a Jew”) caused a stir. Moore and his wife rode to their polling place on horses.
Jones, the Democrat, is a former U.S. Attorney. Jones was born in Fairfield, Alabama, in 1954, to a steelworker and stay-at-home mother, and Jones himself worked in the steel mills between school terms as a young man. He attended Fairfield High School during the state’s desegregation of public schools and went on to study political science at the University of Alabama, graduating in 1976. In 1979, he earned a juris doctor from Samford University, Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, and entered public service immediately thereafter. From 1979 to 1980, he worked as a staff counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, and from 1980 to 1984, he served as the assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
Jones then left the public sector for a private practice law firm, where he stayed until 1997 when President Bill Clinton nominated him to return to the Department of Justice outpost in Alabama’s Northern District and serve as a U.S. attorney. After four years on the job, he returned to private practice, and is currently a shareholder at Jones & Hawley, PC, a Birmingham law firm he co-founded.
Jones has been derided by Presidential Donald Trump as a “Pelosi/Schumer puppet.” The president endorsed Moore’s former primary opponent, the incumbent Republican Luther Strange, but in the final days of the special election, he directed his ire at Jones, writing recently, “The people of Alabama will do the right thing. Doug Jones is Pro-Abortion, weak on Crime, Military and Illegal Immigration, Bad for Gun Owners and Veterans and against the WALL. Jones is a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet. Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!”
How the “Trump card” will play in Alabama is not clear. Bombastic and defiant, underfunded, prone to controversial statements (including about Vladimir Putin), and railing against Washington elites, Moore, ironically, may have captured some of the narrative that propelled Trump into the White House. He’s also a Vietnam veteran and former prosecutor. Moore, a Republican, received national attention for his defiance over the Ten Commandments and same-sex marriage. Moore brings religion into public life frequently in his positions and commentary, and his election would place Republicans in the awkward position of having to welcome him to the Senate as sexual harassment accusations explode as a national controversy. Some have called for a Senate investigation that could result in his ouster upon election.
The Washington Post broke the story of sexual misconduct accusations against Moore, focusing on four women, although the number of accusers later grew. In the Washington Post story, one woman alleged sexual contact when she was 14 and Moore was 32. “Wendy Miller says she was 14 and working as a Santa’s helper at the Gadsden Mall when Moore first approached her, and 16 when he asked her on dates, which her mother forbade. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when Moore spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on the first of several dates that did not progress beyond kissing. Gloria Thacker Deason says she was an 18-year-old cheerleader when Moore began taking her on dates that included bottles of Mateus Rosé wine. The legal drinking age in Alabama was 19,” the newspaper reported. The story starts with accuser Leigh Corfman, who says she “had sexual contact with Moore that went beyond kissing. She says they did not have intercourse.” She was 14 at the time. He was 32, and a single assistant district attorney, and the year was 1979.
Moore won re-election in Alabama after being removed from the state’s highest court over the monuments issue. However, he was “suspended for declining to enforce the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriages. After losing an appeal, he resigned in April,” reports Politico. He re-emerged to run for Sessions’ seat, which the senator vacated to become Trump’s Attorney General, knocking off the short-term incumbent, Strange, in the primary.
According to his Chief Justice biography, he “graduated from Etowah High School in Attalla, Alabama, in 1965, and from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1969. He served in the U.S. Army as a company commander with the Military Police Corps in Vietnam. Chief Justice Moore completed his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1977.”