BIRMINGHAM: Democrat Doug Jones won a bitter fight for a U.S. Senate seat in deeply conservative Alabama, dealing a political blow to President Donald Trump in a race marked by sexual misconduct accusations against Republican candidate Roy Moore.
The stunning upset makes Jones the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century and will trim the Republicans’ already narrow Senate majority to 51-49, endangering Trump’s agenda and opening the door for Democrats to possibly retake the chamber in next year’s congressional elections.
With 99 percent of the vote counted, Jones had a lead of 1.5 percentage points over Moore. But the Republican refused to concede, telling supporters in Montgomery that votes were still coming in and state law would trigger a recount if the margin was within half a percent.
In a CNN interview, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said it was “highly unlikely” that anything would change the election outcome. “The people of Alabama have spoken,” he said.
The ugly campaign drew national attention and split the Republican Party following accusations by several women that Moore sexually assaulted or pursued them when they were teens and he was in his 30s.
Moore, 70, a Christian conservative twice removed from the state Supreme Court in Alabama for ignoring federal law, denied the allegations and said he did not know any of the women who made them. Reuters has not independently verified them.
Trump endorsed Moore even as other party leaders in Washington walked away from him, but Jones, 63, a former federal prosecutor, portrayed the campaign as a referendum on decency and promised the state’s voters he would not embarrass them in Washington.
“I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than divides us,” Jones told cheering supporters at his Birmingham victory party, where Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” had blasted from loudspeakers earlier.
“We have shown the country the way we can be unified,” said Jones, who as a U.S. attorney prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four little girls.
Jones, who cast himself on the campaign trail as the candidate who could reach across the aisle and get things done in Washington, said Alabama had often taken the wrong road when it came to a crossroads.
“Tonight you took the right road,” Jones said.
Jones is expected to take office early in January, after the results are certified. His election will not effect the pending votes in Congress on a tax overhaul or government funding.