Democrat Doug Jones eked out a win over embattled Republican Roy Moore in Tuesday’s special election to fill Alabama’s Senate seat, delivering a massive boost to Democrats and leaving Republicans with only the slimmest of majorities in the upper chamber.
Mr. Jones’ win is a major blow both politically and policy-wise for President Trump, who went all-in for Mr. Moore, saying his agenda was on the line in the race.
Washington Republicans had deemed Mr. Moore a flawed candidate from the start and had tried to derail him but GOP voters in Alabama, prodded by former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, made Mr. Moore their nominee.
The race was further upended in November when The Washington Post reported on several women who said Mr. Moore pursued relationships with them when he was a lawyer in his 30s and they were in their teens. One woman said Mr. Moore groped her while they were dating when she was 14 years old.
“The voters of Alabama are sending a message that it’s not 1950 anymore, or whatever year pedophilia and sexual assault were okay,” said Christy Setzer, a Democratic strategist. “That has implications for politicians up to and including the one in the Oval Office.”
The Jones victory is good new for Democrats, who were unable to win a series of special House elections earlier this year. But they won major victories in state elections last month in New Jersey and Virginia, and now add the win in ruby red Alabama.
When Mr. Jones is sworn in, the GOP majority shrinks to 51-49 – leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with little wiggle room on legislation in the upper chamber.
Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has struggled to advance the Trump agenda on Capitol Hill, making him a favorite target of activists that support the president, including Mr. Moore, who tried to make Mr. McConnell a flashpoint in the race.
The Moore loss also raises questions over what’s next for Mr. Bannon’s quest to field an insurgent slate of candidates in the GOP primary races next year.
Mr. Jones, a former U.S. attorney, vowed to be a bridge builder on Capitol Hill and tried to make the most out of sexual misconduct allegations against Mr. Moore.
Mr. Jones outraised Mr. Moore, bringing in $11.7 million and spending $9.3 million. Mr. Moore meanwhile raised $5.2 million and spent $4.5 million.
The financial edge gave Mr. Jones a clear advantage over the television airwaves, where he ran 10 times as many commercials as Mr. Moore, according to Advertising Analytics LLC.
The Jones campaign targeted moderate Republicans living in the Alabama suburbs by reminding voters about the allegations against Mr. Moore and how GOP figures, including Sen. Richard Shelby, had distanced themselves from his campaign.
They also highlighted how he prosecuted a couple of Ku Klux Klan members involved in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four African American girls.
Exit polls showed that more than half of voters said the allegations were not an important factor in their vote, and 40 percent said they were an important factor.
Voters were split over whether the allegations were true, with 26 percent saying the allegations were definitely true and 16 percent saying they were definitely false.
Exit polls showed that 98 percent of Democrats voted for Mr. Jones, while 91 percent of Republicans turned out for Mr. Moore.
They also found that Mr. Jones also made inroads with moderate Republicans that tend to live in the state’s suburbs, winning over nearly 20 percent of them, and suggested that Mr. Jones benefited from a strong African American turnout, which comprised 30 percent of the electorate.