The race to fill Jeff Sessions' Senate seat, once a sure thing for Republicans, has become the most competitive statewide election in Alabama in recent memory. In the final days of the campaign, Democrat Doug Jones has been crisscrossing the state but Republican Roy Moore has dropped off the map.
Jones, a former U.S. attorney, has gone from a longshot candidate to something of a rarity in modern Alabama: a Democrat with a chance in a prominent statewide election.
With polls bouncing back and forth between Jones and Moore, indicating a competitive race, the 63-year-old former prosecutor is seizing the opportunity, attending five get-out-the-vote events over the weekend from Selma to Birmingham.
High-profile campaign surrogates, from country music star Jason Isbell to Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Anderson, have headlined three other major events for Jones over the weekend from Mobile to Huntsville, attempting to draw out black and millennial voters whom Jones' campaign will need to win.
While Jones has been in front of cameras and voters consistently over the past week, Moore has all but disappeared from the campaign trail — eschewing standard campaign tactics and opting instead for a low-key final push.
The former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice last appeared at a public campaign rally on Tuesday when he headlined a rally in Fairhope with former White House chief strategist and Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon. He is scheduled to appear again in public Monday night at an election-eve rally with Bannon and Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert in Midland City.
Moore was noticeably absent Sunday from the church he normally attends, where reporters had gathered attempting to catch a glimpse of the embattled candidate. Moore, a West Point alumnus, planned to attend the Army-Navy football game Saturday in Philadelphia, according to Politico.
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With less than 36 hours to go until polls open across the state, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, a rising star in the Democratic party, and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, have joined Jones at GOTV rallies.
Booker, who says his family roots lead back to Alabama, has been lending his high-profile voice to Jones, energizing volunteers and urging black voters, who make up 25 percent of the Alabama electorate, to turn out on Tuesday.
"Alabama, we are a great state and a great people, and everyone deserves justice," Booker said Saturday. "So when [Jones] went back and prosecuted the case of the girls who died in the 16th Street Baptist Church, he did not just honor our ancestors, he told the world who Alabama is."
Booker has joined most other members of the United States Senate who have said Moore, who has been accused of sexually assaulting three women, wouldn't be welcome in the chamber.
"This is somebody who has preyed upon teenagers, and now we're going to put him in an environment where not only are there teenagers working as pages who have to meet with us or help us or support us, but this is also a place, again, the United States Capitol, where all of America come with their families," Booker told reporters Saturday. "He is not fit for the Capitol."
Moore has flatly denied the allegations.
"It's inconceivable to think that somebody would wait 40 years because they were embarrassed or ashamed of something and then, less than 30 days before the general election, come out and make allegations and then appear on a political advertisement when they've waited 40 years not to be embarrassed," Moore said in a pre-taped interview with The Voice of Alabama Politics that aired Sunday.
The three women who have accused Moore of sexual assault, including Leigh Corfman, who accused Moore of sexually molesting her when she was 14 and he was 32, have not appeared in political advertisements, though Jones' campaign has used their photos in his own television advertisements highlighting the accusations.
The Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to elect Republicans to the upper house of Congress, pulled its support of Moore. The Republican National Committee also severed a fundraising agreement with Moore last month but resumed working with his campaign after President Donald Trump offered a full-throated endorsement of Moore.
Alabama's senior senator, Richard Shelby, has said he couldn't vote for Moore, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that he couldn't bring himself to do it and "Alabama deserves better."
“We call it a tipping point," Shelby said. "And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old story, that was enough for me, I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”
Jones has painted himself as a reasonable, moderate alternative to Moore. The Democratic candidate has said he could work with Shelby, known for his history of bringing industry to the state, on economic development and other issues.
"Everywhere I go, we have issues in common. We may have different avenues, we may have different challenges with those issues, depending on your community, but we have the same issues in common," Jones said.
But Moore's campaign has painted Jones as "too liberal for Alabama," going so far as to dub him "#AbortionJones" on Twitter over his pro-choice views. Moore and his surrogates have criticized Jones for an answer he gave MSNBC in which he said he did not support any restrictions on a woman's right to choose. Moore has said Jones supports "full-term abortion."
Jones has since refined his stance, saying he doesn't support changing current Alabama law, which prohibits abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization, according to AL.com.
Polls will open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and will remain open until 7 p.m. Registered voters will need a valid state ID to vote.
Editor's note: Chip Brownlee also serves as a writer for the Alabama Political Reporter and often appears on The Voice of Alabama Politics as a panelist.
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