Alabama senate race: Charles Barkley tells Alabama to vote for Doug Jones and 'stop looking like idiots to the nation'

The basketball legend said turnout was crucial if Democrats were to win

Andrew Buncombe
Birmingham, Alabama
Tuesday 12 December 2017 04:22
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Alabama senate race: Charles Barkley tells Alabama to vote for Doug Jones and 'stop looking like idiots to the nation'

Basketball legend Charles Barkley has made an impassioned plea to people in Alabama to cast their vote for Democrat Doug Jones and “stop looking like idiots to the nation”.

Barkley, 54, who was born in Alabama and who at this peak was one of the National Basketball League’s most influential players, said he believed it was incredible Mr Jones’s rival, Roy Moore, was still in the race.

“When people in your own party say they won’t vote for you or support you, that’s a dead giveaway. It’s amazing,” he said at an eve of election rally in Birmingham. “I am begging and urging everybody to get out, call all your friends. We’ve got to, at some point, we’ve got stop looking like idiots to the nation.”

Mr Jones, who made his reputation prosecuting two former members of the Ku Klux Klan of the deadly bombing of a black church in 1963, told supporters they were on “the right side of history”. Alabama had frequently found itself at a crossroads and previously made the wrong choice, he claimed.

Then, playing on his opponents’ name, he said people wanted change and desired elected officials who displayed decency. He then lead a chant of: “No more, no more, no more.”

Yet, Mr Jones knows he faces a tough fight. Alabama, where 49 per cent of adults identify as evangelical Christians, has not elected a Democrat to the senate for 30 years, and that person subsequently defected to the Republicans. The last Democrat elected statewide was in 2008.

It was widely assumed this special election, triggered when former senator Jeff Sessions joined Donald Trump’s cabinet, would be the same. But then Mr Moore, a retired judge, found himself accused of sexual assault and abuse involving children and young women when he was a state prosecutor in this 30s.

Roy Moore accuser Leigh Corfman says he 'seduced me'

Mr Moore has repeatedly denied the claims but the allegations were enough to allow Mr Jones to close the gap to within just a few points in most polls. On Monday night, Real Clear Politics, which monitors and collates other polls, said the race was a “toss up”.

Mr Jones’s supporters said they believed the race was close but also believed they’d need a strong wind to overcome the conservative bias in the state that has ensured the last Democratic president to be supported by Alabama was southerner Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Sheila Roche said she had been making calls all day at the Jones campaign phone bank and was heartened by the responses she received. “I think it will be a close thing,” she said.

Abeda Iqbal, 25, who works in finance and who said she was Muslim, said there was no way she could vote for a candidate such as Mr Moore, given his conservative views. “He hates gays, he hates Muslims,” she said.

Yet she said she believed Mr Moore retained widespread support, especially in white, rural Alabama.

Shadaria Alison, a social activist, was much more confident. “I’m here because I want to see the continuing transformation of Alabama,” she said, saying she had supported the election of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who was sworn in last month and who was also present last night.

Meanwhile, Mr Jones’s opponent ended his campaign by seeking to portray himself as a victim of a national barrage of unjust allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers.

On election eve, Mr Moore telephoned a conservative talk radio show in Alabama to lament the tone of the campaign and portray cast himself as the victim.

“We’ve seen things happen in this campaign that I can’t believe to this day,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “It’s just been hard, a hard campaign.”

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