Shifting tactics in Alabama Senate race, Democrat Doug Jones hammers Roy Moore over allegations of sexual misconduct involving teenagers
Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate in the Alabama Senate election, on Tuesday launched his most sustained attack yet on his Republican rival, Roy Moore.
In a speech in Birmingham a week before the vote, Jones hammered Moore, who has faced allegations of sexual misconduct involving teenaged girls.
“Men who hurt little girls should go to jail, not the US Senate,” Jones said.
Several hours after Jones’s speech, Republican senator Jeff Flake made a $100 donation to the Democrat’s campaign. Flake, a conservative “Never Trump” Republican from Arizona, wrote “country over party” on the check.
The Alabama race has been roiled by allegations from women who say Moore behaved inappropriately with them when they were teenagers and he was a prosecutor in his 30s.
Two women have claimed Moore sexually assaulted them. Others have said he dated or tried to date them. The Republican candidate has denied all the allegations and pointed to a conspiracy involving “lesbians, gays, bisexuals and socialists”.
Attacking Moore, Jones contrasted the firebrand conservative judge to the state’s former governor, Robert Bentley, who resigned amid a sex scandal in April.
“We didn’t look away with Robert Bentley when his conduct involved consenting adults and we cannot look away now that it involves children,” Jones said.
Moore has twice been forced to step down as chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, for defying federal court orders. Jones set up his Republican opponent as a figure of mockery.
“Roy Moore has never, ever served our state with honor,” he said. “He was already an embarrassment before nine courageous women chose to share their stories.”
He also attacked Moore for his position at a not-for-profit organization called the Foundation for Moral Law, which paid the Republican about $1m over a five-year period.
“I have never lived off of donations from a so-called charitable foundation,” Jones said.
The Democrat even mocked Moore for pulling a small pistol on stage at a campaign rally in September. “When you see me with a gun, I’ll be climbing in and out of a deer blind,” he said, “not prancing around on a stage in a cowboy suit.”
The speech marked a shift in tactics from Jones. From being cautious in criticizing Moore over the allegations of sexual misconduct, his campaign has become increasingly vocal and aggressive.
At the White House on Tuesday, Trump talked to reporters about the race. “We don’t want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama,” he said. “We want to have the things we represent.”
Press secretary Sarah Sanders also defended the endorsement, saying Trump “would rather have a person that supports his agenda versus someone who opposes his agenda every step of the way, and until the rest of that process plays out, you have a choice between two individuals, and the president’s chosen to support Moore”.
She added: “The allegations are concerning and, if true, he should step aside, but we don’t have a way to validate that and that’s something for the people of Alabama to decide.”
CNN journalist Jim Acosta challenged Sanders, noting: “This is somebody who’s been accused of child abuse, of molesting children. How can that vote in the Senate be that important that you would take a gamble on somebody who’s been accused of molesting kids, of harming somebody who is under age? Has he wrestled with that question?
The press secretary answered: “As I’ve said, we find the allegations very troubling and again this is up to the people of Alabama to make that decision. I’m not a voter in Alabama; I can’t make that decision.”
According to the realclearpolitics.com polling average, Moore has a 1.5-point lead.