Less than 12 hours before polls open in the most consequential Alabama election since the days of George Wallace, Democratic candidate and former prosecutor Doug Jones returned to Birmingham with his closing argument: It’s time for Alabama to move beyond its painful history—and that starts with keeping Republican opponent Roy Moore out of the U.S. Senate.
“It is time that we put our decency, our state, before political party,” Jones told an audience of supporters. “It is time that we say ‘no Moore!’”
Flanked by former Auburn University basketball star and NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley and Orange Is the New Black breakout Uzo Aduba, an energetic Jones leaned on his tenure as a U.S Attorney to make the case that Alabamians should send a Democrat to Washington for the first time in decades. “This election is going to be one of the most significant in our state’s history,” said Jones, “and we’ve gotta make sure that at this crossroads in Alabama’s history, we take the right road.”
Jones, who once locked up criminals for the crimes of which his opponent has been accused, did not linger on Moore specifically, instead framing the election in terms of Alabama’s long and, at times, difficult history.
“It is time that we take a road that is gonna get us on the path to progress that everybody deserves,” Jones said. “You know our history… we want to make sure that we change that arc. We want to make sure that Alabama has its best foot forwards.”
In any other year, Jones would likely be heading into Election Day with the wind at his back. Moore has been dogged for more than a month by allegations of sexual impropriety committed against underage women in the 1970s, ranging from sexual overtures to sexual assault. Already a controversial figure in the Republican Party for his past statements on gays, President Barack Obama and the U.S. Constitution, the twice-elected-twice-fired former chief justice of the state supreme court has hemorrhaged support from key members of his party, including Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who said on Sunday that “the state of Alabama deserves better” than Moore.
But Moore has steadfastly denied the allegations, dismissing his accusers as pawns of the national media, the Democratic National Committee, homosexuals, George Soros, and transgender people. President Donald Trump’s refusal to denounce Moore, and even to campaign for him in the closing days of the special-election campaign, has helped rally social conservatives behind Moore.
“Doug Jones is a pro-abortionist. And Roy Moore is standing up for Christian rights and proper American values based on the Constitution,” Joshua Tessin, 26, a pharmacy student who lives in Homewood, told The Daily Beast on Sunday. “It’s going to be an easy win for Roy.”
Meanwhile, the national Democratic apparatus has avoided going all-in on Jones. In Alabama, where the party hasn’t fielded a successful statewide candidate since the 1990s, the optics of pouring millions of out-of-state cash into a potentially un-winnable race kept high-profile Democrats out of the state until the final week of the campaign.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick were dispatched in early December to help assist in black voter turnout, seen as key to a Jones victory—a tactic that the Jones kept up in its closing rally with the appearances of Aduba and Barkley.
“It is an election that impacts all of us throughout this country,” said Aduba, a Massachusetts native who said she came to Alabama because of the election’s national implications. “It is abundantly clear that there is only one choice in this election, and that choice is Doug Jones.”
Home-state hero Barkley told Jones’ supporters that although Alabama is “the greatest place in the world,” it is now time for the state to turn from its history by supporting the Democratic candidate. Moore, he said, has spent the campaign “playing to that base—the same people been holding us back for many, many years.”
“If somebody sent you this as a movie script, you’d throw it in the trash. You’d say, there’s no way possible this other dude could be leading in any polls,” said Barkley. “At some point, we gotta stop looking like idiots to the nation… at some point we got to draw a line in the sand, and say, ‘we’re not a bunch of damn idiots.’”
Two polls released on Monday showed very different pictures, with Jones up 10 points in one and Moore leading by 9 in the final days of the special election, in which turnout is always head to predict, in usually deep-red Alabama—a state where contests rarely merit sophisticated polling.
“As they say, the hay’s in the barn,“ Jones said. “All we gotta do is make sure we get out the vote.”