Months of campaigning, a lot of it ugly, come to an end today, as Alabama voters head to the polls to decide between embattled Republican Roy Moore or Democrat Doug Jones. / Tribune file photos
CULLMAN – The day is finally here: the U.S. Senate special election. Polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Alabama voters will choose between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, two names Alabamians have become all too familiar with over the last several weeks.
This election has led to bitter, nasty debate. Social media feeds have been clogged with angry arguments for both candidates on The Tribune’s Facebook page, and, indeed, all over the internet. Each side has dug in its heels, Moore’s supporters not budging on issues like abortion and traditional marriage, Jones’ faithful likewise on a woman’s right to choose, marriage equality and access to healthcare for all.
So. How did we get here?
When U.S. Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions was confirmed by the Senate in February, then-Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was tasked with temporarily filling the Senate seat vacated by Sessions until a special election could be held. Bentley chose Luther Strange, the Alabama attorney general who had recently called off an investigation into the governor’s allegedly illegal activities. Strange could have proven to be a capable and effective lawmaker, but the suspicious looking circumstances surrounding his appointment led many to call for the state to give citizens an option to decide for themselves sooner rather than later.
In response, in one of her first actions, new Gov. Kay Ivey, who took control of the state after an embattled Bentley resigned on April 10, moved up the special election, which Bentley had set to coincide with the regular 2018 election, to this year. Party primaries took place Aug. 15; Strange and Moore went to a runoff on Sept. 26, while Jones easily won his party’s election. And here we are, at the end of seven weeks of increasingly intense campaigning since Moore and Jones were officially declared opponents for the coveted seat.
Then, on Nov. 9, The Washington Post published an article reporting allegations that Moore initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32, and an assistant district attorney, in 1979. Since then, eight more women have come forward. Moore supporters have questioned the timing of the accusations, while his detractors have rallied behind the women.
Moore has vehemently denied the allegations, saying he does not know the women in question.
Political heavyweights from both sides have thrown their support behind their chosen candidate; some came out only to voice their opposition to a candidate.
Longtime Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby doubled down on his previous remarks against Moore, saying on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, “I didn't vote for Roy Moore. I wouldn't vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has whole-heartedly endorsed Moore, and began making robo-calls in the state just prior to the election.
In Cullman County, the local GOP is standing firm in its support of Moore, Chairman Waid Harbison telling The Tribune, “You know, this is what I’ve said all along, and I think everybody will agree with this: there’s nothing right about the things that he’s done. If he’s truly done those things, then I would say he needs to step down.
“The national media has blown this up and made it sound like, if you’re supporting Roy Moore, you’re supporting a child molester, all of his actions, and everything like that. That’s not necessarily true, at all, because we’re not condoning any of those actions or saying they’re okay, but they are just allegations at this point, and there’s just not enough proof or evidence, really. And I know there’s a bunch of stories and everything like that, but a lot of them are being discredited now.
“The Cullman County Republican Party, we’re going to 100 percent stand behind him. The state party did the same thing. I’m a member of the state executive committee and, basically, the steering committee for the state talked about it. And there (were) a few people on that committee that wanted to replace him with somebody else on the ticket, but they polled all of the county parties, and of course Cullman County said we want to support Roy Moore.
The Cullman County Democrats have passionately campaigned for Jones, and hosted a rally for him this month at Stone Bridge Farms, where Jones said, ““Folks, this is our time, this is our opportunity, but we’ve gotta seize it. It is up to us. And I don’t have to go through all the detail about what’s come out; I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. First of all, I never believed Roy Moore was good for Alabama before all this came out. Someone that’s been removed from office twice for disobeying the rule of law, the last time he went before the judiciary said his testimony was not credible, that he was misleading.
“I don’t believe he’s qualified to be a United States Senator,” Jones said, “because he used that Moral Foundation (The Foundation for Moral Law) for his own benefit to make sure he and his family enriched themselves, but now we’ve seen the disturbing conduct. This campaign, obviously, we have stuck with issues, we are talking about issues. We’re happy to meet every day, whether it’s with educators, manufacturing, labor, I’m taking phone calls and I’m meeting with folks, but there is this other noise out there that we can’t overlook. We simply can’t overlook, in this age and in this time when this country has reached its tipping point, about the power that women can feel to stand up and speak out about those things that they have to endure every day.
Roger Duke, speaking on behalf of the Cullman Democrats, said Monday, “Tomorrow’s special Senate election is a very important election for Alabama. I encourage everyone who is a registered voter to get out to the polls and vote, remind your family and friends, even offer to take them. Looking at all the polls that have been conducted through this campaign, it shows it being close, but, as we know elections are not won by polls; it depends on voter turnout. This election is very important; this election, depending on who wins, could affect the future of new businesses coming to the state and this person will also be the one to represent every Alabama resident, not just a certain group, but all.
“The Democrat office will be open all day if anyone needs a ride to the poll we have volunteers to help make sure you have the chance to cast your vote. They can contact us on social media or by calling 205-529-1558. Later in the evening around 6:30 p.m. we will be gathering at the headquarters to watch the results come in. Come join us and show your support.”
The Tribune reached out to Harbison on Monday for more comments, but as of press time, none were received.
- The Cullman County Republican Party will be holding an Election night viewing party beginning at 7 p.m. at the Elks Lodge in Cullman at 1609 Brantley Ave. NW in Cullman.
- The Democrats will gather for a viewing party at the Democratic headquarters, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at 415 Second Ave. SW in Cullman.
Copyright 2017 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.