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What are Alabama voters expecting from Doug Jones?

With a surprisingly strong turnout, voters in one of the most Republican states elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate and repudiated its controversial GOP nominee. John Yang reports on the upset in Alabama’s election and Judy Woodruff talks to Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell -- who up till now was the only Democrat in that state’s delegation -- about what we can expect from Doug Jones in office.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last night, as we said, there was a political earthquake in the American South. Doug Jones became the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat from the state of Alabama in 25 years, defeating Republican Roy Moore.

    As John Yang reports, the GOP loss followed a tumultuous campaign.

  • Doug Jones:

    I have said throughout this campaign that I thought that December 12 was going to be a historic day.

  • John Yang:

    Celebrating his upset win last night, Doug Jones called for unity.

  • Doug Jones:

    I have always believed that the people of Alabama had more in common than divide us. We have work to do to reach across with those that didn’t vote for us to try to find that common ground. I’m pledging to do that tonight.

  • John Yang:

    Today, Jones said President Trump reached out to him with a gracious phone call.

  • Doug Jones:

    And we talked about finding that common ground to work together. And he invited me over to the White House to visit as soon as I get up there.

  • John Yang:

    With a surprisingly strong turnout for a special election, voters in one of the most Republican states repudiated the party’s nominee, Roy Moore. In the closing days, he was dogged by decades-old accusations of sexual misconduct with teenagers.

  • Roy Moore:

    Thank you.

  • John Yang:

    Last night, Moore refused to concede.

  • Roy Moore:

    And realized, when the vote is this close, that it’s not over, and we still got to go by the rules about this recount provision.

  • John Yang:

    But the Alabama Republican Party declared that the race was over. This morning, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee agreed, tweeting, “God wasn’t registered to vote in Alabama, but the people who voted did speak, and it wasn’t close enough for recount.”

  • Doug Jones:

    The African-American community, thank you.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • John Yang:

    Jones’ improbable victory was fueled by a diverse coalition, including strong support from African-American voters.

  • Zarinah Shahid:

    I feel like tonight means that America can be inspired now. I feel like, for so long, that last 13 months, righteousness seemed like it was losing. It won today.

  • John Yang:

    Exit polls show that 96 percent of African-American voters supported Jones. They made up 29 percent of the electorate, about the same number as turned out for President Obama’s 2012 reelection.

    Basketball legend Charles Barkley, an Alabama native, said it was a wake-up call for Democrats.

  • Charles Barkley:

    It’s time for them to get off their ass and start making life better for black folks and people who are poor.

  • John Yang:

    Another crucial factor? Write-in votes, after Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby said he didn’t vote for Moore.

  •  Sen. Richard Shelby:

    Well, I would rather see the Republican win, but I would hope that Republican would be a write-in. I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore.

  • John Yang:

    There were about 23,000 write-in ballots, roughly the same as Jones’ margin of victory.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We want jobs, jobs, jobs. So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it, do it.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • John Yang:

    The outcome was a blow for Mr. Trump, who embraced the embattled candidate in the final weeks of the campaign.

  • President Donald Trump:

    As the leader of the party, I would have liked to have the seat.

  • John Yang:

    Jones is not likely to join the Senate until January.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For more on last night’s historic results, I am joined by U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, who represents Selma and parts of Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama. She was, until now, the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation.

    Congresswoman Sewell, thank you very much for talking to us.

    As we said, you are going to have some Democratic company for a change. How much of a shift was this in Alabama politics?

  • Rep. Terri Sewell:

    It was a huge shift.

    You know, last night, Alabama spoke up and spoke out. And they showed up and showed out. My district overperformed, which was awesome. And I was just very happy that we showed the rest of the world what I already knew, and that’s that the heart of Alabama is about decency and integrity and that character does matter, and it matters so much that people were willing to actually, you know, do that, to vote out of their party, which is awesome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I heard Doug Jones today at his news conference give you credit for being instrumental in turning out votes in the African-American community.

    Who does he owe this victory to? And how much of it should go to the African-American vote in your state?

  • Rep. Terri Sewell:

    Well, I think a large part of it should go to the traditional Democratic base, which includes African-Americans.

    You know, African-American women turned out the strongest for Doug. And so when I think about who we owe this victory to, it’s a whole coalition of folks. It’s the African-American community. It’s the Latino community, labor.

    It’s also, you know, white women in suburbia who have children. So, white mothers was a big draw as well. I think what I’m most excited about is the fact that women really showed up for Doug Jones. Of all the female voters, he received 57 percent of all female voters in this election.

    So we owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of folks. But I think that this is a great recipe for other Democrats who are running in ruby-red states like Alabama, that what we need is coalition politics, and a candidate does matter. Who the candidate is matters. His message or her message matters, as well as working together and building coalitions.

  • Judy Woodruff:

     What would you say African-American voters who voted for Doug Jones, women and others who voted for him, what do they look for him to do in Washington?

  • Rep. Terri Sewell:

    Well, I think they came out in droves because the stakes were so high, and because Doug spoke to issues, the same issues, whether he was in an African-American church or a synagogue or a chamber. He talked about kitchen table issues.

    So people expect him to fight for health care, to fight for equal funding for public education, so that every child has an opportunity to reach their God-given potential. We really want the senior — the Senate leadership to hold back this vote on tax, so that the folks of Alabama have a true voice in the Senate to vote against a tax reform bill that doesn’t help the middle class.

    So I think that our expectation is that Doug will do what he said and fight for the issues, those bread-and-butter issues, kitchen table issues that are so important to all Alabamians.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We noticed that last night in his victory speech, he also — he notably called for reaching across the aisle, working with the other party.

    How much do you expect him to vote reliably Democratic, and how much do you expect he’s going to look for common ground with Republicans?

  • Rep. Terri Sewell:

    I think that, you know, I’m the lone Democrat, was the lone Democrat — I love saying that, was the lone Democrat in Alabama. And working across aisles is what we have to do in order to get things done in the state of Alabama.

    The reality is that I have had to work with my Republican senators, my Republican delegation in order to get, you know, economic opportunities for my district. We wouldn’t have gotten a $150 million copper facility in the poorest district in the state and the poorest county in the state, Wilcox, without Republican help.

    So I expect that Doug will reach across the aisles, as he said. I think that he is going to not compromise his core values or those core issues that people voted for him on. And so I expect that he will be a senator for all of Alabama.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    U.S. Representative Terri Sewell, celebrating today after Doug Jones’ win, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Terri Sewell:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

     And we will have more on the Alabama election results in just a few moments.

     

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