Running as a Democrat in ruby-red Alabama is not easy for any candidate seeking a seat in government. Six out of seven of Alabama’s members of the House are Republican, as are all statewide office holders and about three-quarters of the state legislature. But Doug Jones succeeded once in flipping Alabama, albeit in a special election in which his opponent was accused of sexual misconduct. Can the underdog rise again?
Doug Jones believes he can.
While Trump remains wildly popular in Alabama—enjoying his highest net approval rating—Jones knows that his independence can still win him voters from both sides. He can’t rely simply on typical Democratic voters since there are not enough of them in Alabama to carry him over the finish line. Jones has to inspire crossover voters like suburban women who voted for Trump in 2016.
He’s raised a lot of money and has a war chest of more than $8 million, which allows him to blanket the airwaves and reach many potential voters.
He will appeal to those voters who like that he doesn’t follow anyone’s conscience but his own. When it comes to casting votes in the Senate, he weighs the pros and cons, his own principles and what is best for the people of Alabama.
He’s one of the most bipartisan senators and sponsors bills with Republicans and Democrats, like a coronavirus bill that would require insurance companies to cover COVID-19 treatments and vaccinations. He supported several of Trump’s nominees, including Attorney General William Barr, but he has stuck with his party on many crucial issues, voting against Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court and voting to impeach Trump. And when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, Jones sharply rebuked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his actions around RBG and hinting at the court-packing that had gone on throughout the entire Trump administration: “I am just really disturbed. I’m disappointed . . . The judiciary is supposed to be an independent body. But it has long since become just a rubber stamp.”
Jones believes that Democrats “need to be the party that looks out for the little guy, the party that is not anti-business by any stretch.” But perhaps his strongest economic message right now is tied to COVID-19. Small businesses, what he calls the “backbone of our communities,” are in dire need of help. And the pandemic only exacerbates the lack of health care for many Alabamians, particularly those in rural communities, as well as the more than 300,000 who earn too much money for Medicaid but earn too little to pay for high-quality care. Jones would address these problems by attracting new businesses that pay good wages and by either supporting a public option or expanding Medicaid.
Not surprisingly, Jones also has strong opinions on racial issues. As a civil rights attorney, Jones prosecuted two aging Klansmen who murdered four little girls in 1963’s Birmingham Church bombing, and won. Jones speaks about George Floyd crying for his mama and the way the world changed the day of Floyd’s death. He also looks to the camera and says, “Black lives matter.” This is not just campaign talk for Jones, although Black voters were a strong base of support for him in 2017.
Jones is keenly aware of the role the South’s history plays in the modern day. “The South has been the place of so many divisions in this country,” he explains. “It started right here in the South, so many of our divisions. The South should be the epicenter for where the healing begins. I absolutely believe that we can do that—and I believe we are doing it, slowly but surely.”
Jones still has five weeks to make his case to Alabamians—the state does not offer early voting—and he pulled no punches in his response to the first presidential debate with this tweet:
And he will continue to rally his base and seek to broaden it. In the 2017 election, he enjoyed what The Washington Post called “historically large support from whites”—in Alabama, that translated to 30 percent—particularly white women and those with college degrees. These two demographics just happen to be the ones who are turning away from Trump. Jones may also be helped by Joe Biden’s performance. Campaign pollster Paul Maslin said, “Obviously Biden’s not going to win the race [in Alabama], but we’re pretty sure this is going to be mid-teens, not a blowout like Hillary [Clinton].”
By mid-summer, more than 3.6 million voters had been added to Alabama’s voter rolls, a greater gain than at any other time in state history. If enough of these new voters registered either cast a vote for Doug Jones or against Donald Trump, Jones can upend the political fortunetellers who say he can’t win his Senate seat for a second time.
Photo courtesy campaign.
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