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  December 11, 2017

Pressure Mounts On Doug Jones To Pull Off Upset in Alabama Senate Race

Democrats see hope in Alabama's Senate race, which has become a high-pressure referendum on Moore's alleged sexual misconduct

By Michael Sainato

December 11, 2017

Nine women have come forward to accuse Alabama Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment and groping to maintaining relationships with underage women as young as 14 years old. Though the allegations against Moore have incited a broad national discussion on how to prevent Moore’s election, polls have shown the race still remains a toss-up as Republicans, including the President, continue to support him. The race is being held in a special election to replace Jeff Sessions, who vacated the senate seat to serve as attorney general.

“Right now, I’d like to see Doug Jones speaking directly to the people of Alabama about who he is,” said Tabitha Isner, Democratic Party candidate in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, in an interview with the Real News Network. “Many people would be happy to have a different option. But if people who usually vote Republican are going to cross over, they are going to need some reassurances from Jones.”

Jones is best known for prosecuting two members of the Ku Klux Klan in 2002 for their role in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. His campaign was mostly ignored due to Alabama’s far lean in favor of Republicans, but the various allegations against Moore have provided Jones and Democrats an opportunity to win a Senate seat that under normal circumstances would be an easy win for the Republican Party. The Democratic Party’s challenge now is to capitalize on the allegations against Moore to drive voter turnout and enthusiasm in favor of Jones, rather than depend solely on opposition against Moore as a campaign strategy.

That challenge has hit several roadblocks as the Jones campaign sparked criticism for a racist-adjacent flyer it distributed to try to woo black voters, who make up 27 percent of Alabama’s registered voter population, to support Jones. “Now that Dems think Doug Jones has a decent chance to pick up a Senate seat, they have turned to Alabama’s black electorate as if they were in the state the entire time,” the Root reported on the flyer. “Furthermore, the only argument they have made in their efforts to convince black voters to vote for Jones is that one thing he did for black people that one time.”

On December 9, Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel tweeted out a Medium post by a North-Alabama DSA member criticizing Jones for his lack of focus on important issues, and refusal to support progressive policies like Medicare For All. The critique of Jones’ mediocrity was widely conflated as support for Moore from Weigel’s signal boost, in a race that has gained national attention due to far-right Republican candidate’s record of sexual misconduct and pedophilia.

Despite the growing pains and tone-deafness exhibited by Jones’ campaign, Democrats across the state are ramping up their efforts and resources to help boost voter turnout to stave off a Roy Moore victory.

“We are working hard to help elect Doug Jones to the US Senate,” Birmingham Mayor-elect Randall Woodfin told the Real News Network. “Given that it is a special election it presents challenges with turnout but there is growing momentum and we are confident Doug will do very well in Birmingham and the Birmingham area. With all of the support they are receiving for their get out the vote efforts, I'm hopeful turnout will be high across the state”

The Washington Post first reported on Republican Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore’s record of sexual assault, harassment, and statutory rape on November 9. The report outlined allegations that Moore molested a 14 year old girl outside a courtroom when he was 32 years old, serving as a District Attorney in Alabama. Since Washington Post first broke the story, other allegations have surfaced. Subsequent reports by the Washington Post include accounts from Gene Richardson, who claimed Moore called her high school to ask her out on a date when she was just turning 18 years old, and Debbie Wesson Gibson, who dated Moore when she was 17 years old and he was 34 years old.

On November 13, the New York Times reported on Beverly Young Nelson, who explained that Moore began harassing her when she was 15 years old, and sexually assaulted her in his car when she was 16. Locals in Gadsden, Alabama claimed that Moore was banned from the local mall due to his reputation for harassing teenage girls.

Several Republicans called on Moore to drop from the senate race, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), while Trump and the Republican National Committee have fully endorsed and supported Moore’s candidacy. Trump himself has faced over a dozen sexual harassment and assault allegations. If Moore wins the senate race, McConnell noted that he will face an ethics investigation committee over the various allegations. The National Republican Senatorial Committee initially pulled funding and resources from Moore’s campaign only to reinstate it in the final weeks of his campaign. The editorial board of three major newspapers in Alabama dubbed Moore  “unfit for public office.” The only entity with the power to remove Moore off the ballot, the Alabama Republican Steering Committee, has refused to do so.

Democrat Senate Candidate Doug Jones criticized Moore in regards to allegations on December 5 during a campaign speech.  "I damn sure believe and have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail, and not the United States Senate," Jones said, in one of his first public acknowledgements of the accusations against Moore.

“I believe what Doug Jones is doing out there is talking about kitchen table issues that are important to people in Alabama,”  said Jesse Smith, the 2018 Democrat candidate for Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District, in an interview with the Real News Network. “I don't know what Doug Jones's strategy is in response to the Roy Moore allegations. But I do know that people are sick and tired of the status quo.”

Moore’s campaign has consistently lied to try to discredit the allegations. Moore used far right conservative media outlet Breitbart to push a preemptive attack against the initial Washington Post story before it broke. After the first reports were released, Moore pushed a letter of support from 53 pastors in Alabama as a publicity stunt against his fallout, despite the letter having been signed before the allegations surfaced. Moore’s campaign created a complaint form on his website for supporters to report any contact they’ve received from media reporters. Pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec doxxed one of the first accusers with her place of employment on Twitter before deleting the tweet. Alabama residents have also reported receiving fake robocalls from someone claiming to be a reporter with the Washington Post, offering to pay for allegations against Moore.

Moore’s attorneys have tried to discredit his accusers. On November 15, one of Moore’s lawyers appeared on MSNBC to defend him against the allegations. In the interview, the attorney, Trenton Garmon, defended Moore’s relationship with underage women by strangely bringing up Ali Velshi’s background. Velshi is Canadian, but Garmon tried to invoke child marriage in the Middle East to reduce Moore preying on teenage girls.

Later on November 15,  AL.com reported on two more women coming forward with allegations against Moore. One woman, who was 28 years old at the time, told AL.com that Moore groped her in his office while she was conducting legal business with him. Another woman explained that Moore asked her out when she was 17 years old in high school, working as a hostess at Red Lobster.

If Moore loses, it would serve as a victory to the ongoing movement of women speaking out against sexual harassment and misconduct from politicians, celebrities, journalists, and entertainment executives. If voters of Alabama opt to refuse to hold Moore accountable, it’s unlikely the Republican dominated U.S. Senate will follow through with an ethics investigation to ultimately dispel Moore.

Photo: Democratic Senatorial candidate Doug Jones (L) arrives with U.S. Rep.Terri Sewell (D-AL) and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) (L-R) at a Jones for Senate Field Office on December 10, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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