Alabama’s Safe GOP Senate Seat Becomes a Toss Up

Alabama’s U.S. Senate race should have been an easy victory for a Republican candidate in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the chamber in a generation and overwhelmingly backed President Donald Trump in last year’s election.

Instead, Tuesday’s election is a dead heat that defies easy prediction.

Roy Moore departs on his horse, Sassy, after voting in Gallant, Alabama on Dec. 12.

Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

The two candidates — Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones — cast their votes early this morning. Moore rode a horse to his polling place 60 miles northeast of Birmingham, while Jones voted in a Baptist church in a Birmingham suburb. Now their campaigns are doing everything they can to encourage their supporters to go to the polls before they close at 7 p.m. Central Time.

Moore had held a steady lead in polls of Alabama voters until allegations that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl and assaulted a 16-year-old, along with accounts he pursued relationships with other teenage girls, when he was in his 30s. He has denied the accusations and sought to tar Jones as a pro-abortion liberal who is out of sync with voters in a conservative state.

Broader Implications

The outcome will reverberate beyond Alabama as both parties prepare for next year’s congressional elections.

Doug Jones with voters in Bessemer, Alabama on Dec. 12.

Photographer: Nicole Craine/Bloomberg

An upset win by Jones in the heavily Republican state would add to a string of victories for Democrats in other statewide elections this year, raising the prospect of a swing in voter sentiment that could give them control of one or both chambers of Congress in 2019. It also would complicate the Republican legislative agenda by leaving them with thin 51-49 majority in the Senate.

A Moore win would keep the Alabama seat in Republican control but with a senator who’s vowed to battle the party’s leadership in Washington. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Moore would likely face an ethics inquiry over the allegations against him, and Democrats are certain to use his presence in the Senate against Republicans in their campaigns. Moore could only be seated after the state certifies the election, which could occur as late as Dec. 23.

The two candidates made their closing arguments on Monday night in settings that evoked the cultural and political divide that’s come to define the two parties in modern America.

Jones held a rally in Birmingham, Alabama’s biggest city. With him were local and national celebrities: retired NBA player and Alabama native Charles Barkley, actress Uzo Aduba and newly elected Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

Nearly 200 miles away Moore held a “drain the swamp” themed election night eve event in a barn in Midland City, a small town in rural southeast Alabama. He also was backed by a small team of celebrities, including Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert, and former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke.