MR. COSTA: Good evening. A new chapter in the Trump presidency began this week with the election of Democrat Doug Jones in deep-red Alabama. Roy Moore has yet to concede defeat, and Jones’ victory raises the prospect that the 2018 midterm elections could dramatically shift the balance of power in Congress.
But before we get to that, let’s talk with Don Dailey, our friend and the host of Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal, to find out what motivated the voters of Alabama to elect a Democrat. Don, welcome to Washington Week. What did turn the race for Doug Jones in that closing stretch?
DON DAILEY: I think it was probably a combination of factors. Of course, the sexual misconduct allegations loomed large in a lot of voters’ minds this week. We spoke to a number of voters leading up to election day, and many of them said that they were going into the voting booth on Tuesday undecided as to which way they were going to vote, and would probably make a final decision once they got to the polls on Tuesday. So the sexual misconduct allegations certainly played a role, but there was also the controversies that have followed Roy Moore over his years of public service here in Alabama. His twice being removed from state Supreme Court as chief justice for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the justice building, and also for his orders on gay marriage. So Roy Moore has always been a polarizing figure in Alabama in some circles, although at the same time he’s also had a loyal base of support here.
MR. COSTA: Don, when you look at the turnout among traditional Democratic voters – African-American voters in Alabama, women – they were significantly higher this time around than we’ve seen in previous contests. Was that because this election was all about Moore and the allegations, or was part of it President Trump and his own reputation in the state?
MR. DAILEY: It was certainly, I think, to some extent about the allegations, maybe President Trump to a smaller extent. And by the same token, I think it was due to a very large and successful get-out-the-vote campaign by Doug Jones in the week or so leading up to the election on Tuesday. Doug Jones really focused hard on getting the African-American vote out. He had the support of several organizations in helping him do so, the NAACP among others, and it really paid off. Doug Jones had a great ground game here in Alabama, volunteers who literally went door-to-door shaking voters’ hands and asking for their support, with a particular emphasis on African-Americans and also younger voters, who seemed to play a role in Jones’ victory here this week.
MR. COSTA: Don, in between my visits to the barbecue joints around Birmingham, I met a lot of suburban Republicans around that city who said they would write in a different name on the ballot, and they were encouraged by Senator Richard Shelby, the veteran senator in the state. How much of an influence did Shelby have in turning out those 22,000 write-in voters?
MR. DAILEY: First, I’m glad you got to enjoy our barbecue. And, second, I think Richard Shelby was, indeed, an influence on a lot of people. There are many who are attributing those 22,000-something write-in votes that were cast on Tuesday to Richard Shelby, who of course famously said that he could not vote for Roy Moore and would instead write in the name of another Republican candidate, although Shelby never revealed who that candidate was. It’s believed that by and large many of those write-in votes cast on Tuesday were cast by Republicans who couldn’t vote for Roy Moore and also couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Democrat Doug Jones. So Richard Shelby is an elder statesman here in Alabama. He is widely respected, and it’s really believed that he had a major influence, at the very least on the number of write-in ballots that were cast.
MR. COSTA: Could this state, Don, be turning blue, or was the election an aberration? You live there. You’re on the ground. Is this a trend in Alabama, or just a fleeting moment?
MR. DAILEY: I think it’s way too early to call it a trend. Alabama is a deeply red, conservative state, and I don’t – I don’t see a major turn in things here – not yet, anyway. I think this had more to do about the controversy that surrounded Roy Moore, and whether Republicans thought he would be a viable person to serve in the U.S. Senate for us, and whether people believed the sexual misconduct allegations surrounding him. No, I don’t see this as a major turn for the Democrats here in Alabama. But Doug Jones is certainly hoping to go to Washington and to prove himself, and, as he puts it, reach across the political aisle, build bridges, and make his leadership less about party and more about the people.
MR. COSTA: He’s going to be a senator to watch, that is for sure, Don. And when can we expect him to actually be in Washington and sworn in?
MR. DAILEY: Well, at least not until after Christmas. Of course, Judge Moore has refused to concede the race. He says he wants to wait until provisional and overseas military ballots are cast before he concedes. And so the secretary of state here in Alabama says that those ballots won’t be counted and the vote won’t be certified until at least December 26th, and no later than January 3rd. So it will probably be after the first of the year before Doug Jones goes to Washington.
MR. COSTA: A Christmas gift for Alabama Democrats and Democrats nationally. We’ll all be keeping an eye on your state.
Don Dailey of Alabama Public Television, thank you.
MR. DAILEY: Thank you. It was a pleasure.