Alabama voters choose between alleged child abuser and man who jailed KKK in surprisingly tight race

Democrats have not won a senate seat here for 25 years

Andrew Buncombe
Birmingham, Alabama
Tuesday 12 December 2017 18:55
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Senate race sees Roy Moore up against Doug Jones in Alabama in tight race

Voters in Alabama have gone to the polls in a deeply controversial special election that both sides claim will be one of the most important for decades.

With the latest opinion polls varying wildly but with many observers believing the contest will be close, both Roy Moore and Doug Jones went out to cast their ballots for themselves, Mr Moore, as has been his habit, appearing for the cameras as his local voting station on horseback.

Both Republican Mr Moore and Democrat Mr Jones sought to stress local issues as they campaigned across the deeply conservative state, where around half of people identify as evangelical Christians. Yet others have sought to place the race in a national context, with both Donald Trump and his former adviser Steve Bannon, placing their support and endorsement behind the former judge.

While Mr Jones, 63, has been careful to avoid embracing figures from the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party and instead talking about his work in Alabama - he famously convicted two former Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a black church and killed four young girls - should he emerge the winner, it will be interpreted as a humiliating blow to the President. The last time a Democrat was elected as senator here was in 1992.

Shortly after voting stations opened, Mr Trump repeated his support for Mr Moore, 70, whose campaign was struck by allegations that he abused and assaulted women and girls when he was aged in his 30s and serving as a local local prosecutor. Mr Moore has adamantly denied the accusations and dismissed them as an attempt by his critics to undermine him.

“The people of Alabama will do the right thing,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.

“Doug Jones is pro-abortion, weak on crime, military and illegal immigration, bad for gun owners and veterans and against the wall. Jones is a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet. Roy Moore will always vote with us.”

Roy Moore's wife claims he can't be antisemitic because 'one of our attorneys is a Jew'

Mr Jones, who has spent the last week urging African Americans to vote for him, told his supporters at an eve of election rally in Birmingham that they were on “the right side of history”

He repeated the message when he voted on Tuesday. “Judge Moore has been consistently wrong about the constitution,” Mr Jones told reporters after casting his ballot at a Baptist church in Birmingham, according to Reuters. “I don’t think Roy Moore is going to win this election.”

Meanwhile, at his final rally, Mr Moore was joined by Mr Bannon, who took the opportunity to take a dig at Ivanka Trump who, unlike her father, had criticised the former judge by saying there was a “special place in hell for people who prey on children”. She also said she found the accounts of the women who spoke out against Mr Moore to be credible.

Echoing Ms Trump's words, Mr Bannon told the crowd: “There’s a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better.”

Mr Jones voted in the city of Birmingham

Meanwhile, Mr Moore, who was previously the subject of international headlines when he installed a 5,000lb piece of granite containing the Ten Commandments in his court complex and told state judges to ignore a Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, sought to position himself as someone who had been wronged.

“If you don’t believe in my character, don’t vote for me,” said Mr Moore, who last week said America “was great at the time when families were united - even though we had slavery”.

Republican leaders in Washington are in a tricky position. Most of them have distanced themselves from Mr Moore, who in turn has been quick to crtiticise them. At the same time, they need to keep the seat in Republican hands if they are to maintain their slim 52-48 majority in the senate.

For all the importance attached to the race, officials said they expected turnout would be low. While around 64 per cent of voters cast their ballot when Mr Trump beat Hillary Clinton 62-34 in the presidential election in 2016, officials believe no more than 25 per cent of voters will take part. Although long lines forming at a number of polling stations may suggest that turnout could be larger than predicted.

Among those did vote were Geneva Calvert, 80, and Peggy Judkins, 48, who went to a polling station in Montgomery, the state capital.

Ms Calvert said said she was voting for Mr Moore because he would help advance Mr Trump’s agenda. “He stands for what President Trump stands for,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Judkins, said she voted for Mr Jones and that Mr Moore was a bad candidate even before the allegations about his behaviour were made.

“Moore got thrown out of office two or three times before,” she said. “So why would you put him back in? That’s crazy.”

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