Friday 18 January 2019

Trump blow as Alabama rejects candidate

Republican Roy Moore. Photo: Reuters
Republican Roy Moore. Photo: Reuters
Doug Jones and his wife Louise wave to supporters in Birmingham, Alabama after his election to the US Senate. Photo: Getty Images

Harriet Alexander

Roy Moore has lost his fight to be elected to the Senate in Alabama, beaten by Doug Jones, his Democrat rival, after a campaign dominated by accusations against Mr Moore of sexual assault of children.

The result is a big blow to US President Donald Trump, who had gone against the advice of his inner circle to back the tarnished Republican.

The Democrat's campaign headquarters erupted in joyous disbelief as the news was announced, with scenes of jubilation.

"I have been waiting all my life, and now I just don't know what to say," said Mr Jones, taking to the stage with his wife, mother and supporters.

"I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than divide us. We have shown the country the way that we can be unified.

"Alabama has been at a crossroads. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, you took the right road."

Mr Trump initially tweeted his congratulations to Mr Jones.

But he followed up with a second tweet yesterday, declaring that he was "right" to earlier endorse Luther Strange.

"The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that Roy Moore will not be able to win the general election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him."

Despite Mr Trump's acceptance of the result, Mr Moore refused to concede and raised the possibility of a recount during a brief appearance at a sombre campaign party in Montgomery.

"It's not over," Mr Moore said. "We know that God is still in control."

With 99pc of the vote counted, Jones had a 1.5pc lead over Moore. The Republican said votes were still coming in and that state law would allow a recount if the margin was within 0.5pc.

Mr Jones's win, the first by a Democratic Senate candidate in Alabama since 1992, shrinks the Republicans' Senate majority to 51-49.

"At the end of the day, this entire race has been about dignity and respect," he said.

"This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency.

"And to all of my future colleagues in Washington: there are important issues facing this country, of healthcare and jobs. We've tried to make sure that this campaign was about finding common ground, reaching across and getting things done."

Mr Jones concluded his speech by quoting Martin Luther King - and the civil rights leader's daughter Bernice was celebrating.

Mr Jones successfully fought to cobble together an unlikely coalition of African-Americans, liberal whites and moderate Republicans.

He had his strongest support across Alabama's "black belt", named for the colour of its soil, and in the larger urban areas, including Montgomery, Birmingham, Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville.

Turnout in those areas, which features a large African-American population, also ran higher than in some of the more heavily Republican parts of the state.

The result capped a highly controversial campaign in which Mr Moore faced allegations of sexual misconduct towards teenagers.

The Democrat's victory in the deeply conservative Southern state will test the political clout of the president, who endorsed Mr Moore - despite pleas from senior Republicans and White House aides not to.

Other Republican leaders had refused to back their party's candidate.

Mr Moore has been accused by multiple women of pursuing them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, including one woman who said he tried to initiate sexual contact with her when she was 14.

Mr Moore (70) has denied any misconduct and painted the election campaign as a battle between conservative Alabamians and a Washington elite determined to install their own candidate.

He was strongly supported by Steve Bannon, Mr Trump's former chief strategist.

In an exit poll by Edison Research, 96pc of African-Americans supported Mr Jones - a similar level seen when Barack Obama attracted 95pc among this group in 2012.

Irish Independent

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