A heavy African American turnout in Alabama’s special election propelled underdog Democratic candidate Doug Jones to victory, in a hotly-contested race against the flawed, yet heavily-favored, Republican candidate Roy Moore.
The New York Times reported that Jones defeated Moore 49.9 percent to 48.4 percent for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacated United States Senate seat.
According to CNN exit polling, 68 percent of White voters, including 72 percent of White men voters and 63 percent of White women voters, supported Moore, an alleged child predator.
Meanwhile, 96 percent of Black voters supported Jones, including 93 percent of Black men voters and 98 percent of Black women voters.
Blacks accounted for a 29 percent share of all voters in the special election in Alabama.
Black voter turnout played a key role in getting Jones elected as Alabama voters were forced to choose between a Republican who’s perceived as a racist and accused of child abuse and a Democrat who has earned his chops prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan.
The contest also was viewed, by many, as a test of racial progress in the Deep South, and the power of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric to sway voters.
Trump campaigned hard for Moore, recording a robocall for the former judge, and convincing the Republican National Committee (RNC) to back the man who was possibly banned from the local mall in Gadsen for badgering young women, according to “The New Yorker.”
On the day of the special election, #RoyMoore trended all day on Twitter with some straight-forward and emotional posts.
“That White Supremacist #RoyMoore rode in on a horse to vote. Kudos to him,” tweeted Greg Carr, chair of Howard University’s Department of Afro-American studies and frequent guest on “NewsOne Now” on TV One. “As White Supremacy dies, this is what it looks like. It won’t go without a fight. Bannon. Trump. Moore. All of their comrades and enablers. They’re daring humanity to respond.”
One of Wisconsin Representative Gwen Moore’s posts was retweeted more than 30,000 times:
“Another #RoyMoore supporter just called my office posing as an @AP reporter. Once their cover was blown they started screaming and called me and my staff the n-word and other racial slurs. I won’t be intimidated. I won’t stop speaking out. You will not shut me down. Believe it.”
Already facing numerous accusations of sexual misconduct with children, Moore, in recent weeks, further aligned himself with the old South with his racially insensitive comments.
When asked by a reporter to explain the last time America was great, Moore didn’t hesitate to respond with stunning clarity with an answer that seemed to out-Trump the president’s comments when he was on the campaign trail.
“I think it was great at the time when families were united—even though we had slavery. They cared for one another,” Moore said. “People were strong in the families. Our families were strong. Our country had a direction.”
Later, he added: “The greatness I see was in our culture, not in all our policies. There were problems. We had slavery; we’ve overcome slavery. We’ve had prejudice; we still have prejudice, but we’ve turned the tide on civil rights. We’ve done a lot of things to bring this country around, and I think we can still make it better.”
Moore’s wife, Kayla, even got into the controversial fray.
One day before the election, Kayla Moore argued that her husband isn’t a bigot.
“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she said. “Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews. And I tell you all this, because I’ve seen it and I just want to set the record straight, while they’re here,” she said gesturing to mainstream media outlets that were in the room. “One of our attorneys is a Jew. We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, and we also fellowship with them.”
Moore has never been one to stay above controversy.
Even before the allegations that he pursued sexual relationships with teens, Moore was the most controversial major-party U.S. Senate nominee in recent memory, according to CNN.
He was booted off the Alabama Supreme Court bench when he served as chief justice for refusing to remove a two-ton statue of the Ten Commandments that he’d ordered placed on state property. He was elected back to the job, but ousted again in 2016 for refusing to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
Moore said that homosexual activity should be illegal and argued against removing segregationist language from the state constitution.
One of Moore’s accusers said he molested her when she was 14; another said that he tried to rape her and she fought him off. Still, Trump and the RNC threw their support behind him.
Fifty percent of voters said the allegations against Moore were definitely or probably true, while 44 percent saw them as definitely or probably false, according to preliminary exit poll results reported by ABC News.
A majority of voters (54 percent) said the allegations were a minor factor or not a factor at all.
Chris Cillizza wrote that, “Jones’ victory means that for now Democrats are only two seats away from the majority—Vice President Mike Pence casts the tie-breaking vote when it is 50-50. While a Democratic move into the majority still looks like a long shot, it’s now not out of the question.”
Jones, an attorney and prosecutor, served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and won acclaim for prosecuting the remaining Klansmen responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four African American girls in 1963.
Shortly after mainstream news outlets predicted that Jones had won the special election, he took to Twitter to celebrate the victory.
“Thank you Alabama,” Jones tweeted the night of the election.
In a statement about the Alabama Senate race, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., the founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said that a coalition of Black and White voters spared Alabama from international shame and disgrace by electing Jones to be the state’s next United States Senator.
“The coalition that pushed Jones over the finish line can win and redeem the whole South,” said Jackson. “It is a stinging repudiation of the divisive politics of Moore, President Donald Trump and strategist Steven Bannon and bodes well for Democrats looking at House and Senate congressional races in 2018.”
Freddie Allen contributed reporting for this story.By Stacy M. Brown