Doug Jones
Democratic Senate hopeful Doug Jones. Credit: Inunotaisho26/Wikimedia Commons

Let’s get a few things straight about the Senate election in Alabama. Prior to the stories about Roy Moore being a sexual predator, the polling in the race was all over the map. For example, Fox News and Opinion Savvy had the race tied while Strategy Research gave Moore an 11 point lead. That probably had to do with the fact that Moore is a known racist, homophobe and Islamophobe who had twice been ejected from the state Supreme Court for refusing to obey the law. That record obviously appeals to some voters and horrifies others.

Since the stories surfaced about Moore sexually assaulting teenage girls, polling continues to be all over the map. Jennifer Duffy explains:

Three polls that went into the field starting on Thursday night and produced results ranging from a four-point lead for Democrat Doug Jones to a tie to a Moore advantage of 10 points. In other words, no one really knows where this race stands today.

The second thing to keep in mind is that Roy Moore will not be pulling out of this race. Remember, he’s the guy who ran for a spot on the state Supreme Court after he had been ejected for refusing to uphold the law. That means that the only two possibilities for what happens in this race are that (1) it is a two-way race between Moore and Jones, or (2) it devolves into a three-way race with voters deciding to write in an alternative.

While Moore has been garnering all of the attention lately, it is important to keep in mind that Democrats didn’t simply put up a place holder to run against him. Doug Jones is obviously not the most electrifying speaker, but he is a strong candidate with an exemplary record as U.S. Attorney and is running a great campaign. Take a look at how he opens his bio on his campaign web site.

Born into a blue-collar family in Fairfield, Alabama – to a father who worked for U.S. Steel and a stay-at-home mom, one grandfather who was a steelworker and the other a coal miner – I am a product and lifelong resident of Alabama. I, too, spent some time working a union job in the steel mill between school. The respect I learned for my parents and grandparents – the hard work they did has shaped my respect for those who work to feed a family – and try to make their children’s lives better.

Here are the issues he highlights on the front page of his web site:

  • Everyone has the right to quality, affordable health care.
  • We must restore Alabama’s trust for its elected leaders.
  • I will defend a woman’s right to choose and stand with Planned Parenthood.
  • All children deserve a first-class education regardless of where they live.
  • College must be affordable without burdening a student with overwhelming debt.
  • I believe in science and will work to slow or reverse the impact of climate change.
  • It is past time we raise the minimum wage to a livable wage.
  • Women must be paid an equal wage for equal work at all levels.
  • Voter suppression is un-American – we must protect voting rights.
  • Discrimination cannot be tolerated or protected. America is best when it builds on diversity and is welcoming of the contributions of all.

In other words, he’s not equivocating a bit on what he stands for, even in one of the reddest states in the country. That message extends beyond specific issues and communicates a sense of authenticity—something that is often undervalued in these kinds of elections.

Because I’m not in Alabama, I don’t know much about what the Jones campaign looks like at the ground level. But one thing is certain, the major message of his campaign is to build on—rather than run away from—the fact that he is the guy who won a conviction against two KKK members that were responsible for bombing the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. It is fascinating to see how he talks about that, even in one of the most conservative districts in the country.

The opportunity he is laying out for Alabamians in this election is powerful:

In the future they’re gonna either write about how we took a giant leap forward and united as one or we chose to remain divided and continue the long march of stain and pain, continuing as a divided Alabama and a divided country. So many of those divisions started here in the South. What better place than the state of Alabama to say that those divisions ended right here.

I don’t remember ever hearing about a Democrat running in a state wide election in the Deep South on a platform like that. This could be a game-changer.

Since the news about Moore’s sexual assault of teenage girls surfaced, Jones has issued brief statements of condemnation but otherwise let the facts damn his opponent. His campaign did produce one new video that seems to be all about an attempt to give Republicans in Alabama permission to vote for a Democrat.

I’m not predicting a win for Jones, simply stating that he has a chance of winning in Alabama. That alone is a watershed moment.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.