Democrat Doug Jones has been gaining momentum in Alabama’s race to fill Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat. The former U.S. Attorney will compete with former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in a special election scheduled for December 12.
Jones has been gaining momentum in the deep-red state in recent weeks, and a recent poll placed the two candidates in a dead heat—an impressive feat for a Democrat in Alabama. Additionally, nine women have now come forward alleging that Moore had sexual contact with or assaulted them while they were teenagers. Moore has categorically denied the accusations and been conspicuously absent from the campaign trail recently, failing to show up for a town hall forum in Huntsville on November 21.
the unexpectedly competitive race in Alabama has Democrats wondering if this special election could afford them a rare odd-year opportunity to slim down the opposition’s majority. Republicans have had a 52-48 majority since the 2016 elections, and dissent from GOP senators has already killed a number of pivotal bills. But in a state where Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 28 percent, Jones’ battle to win the Senate seat could be characterized as uphill, at best.
Here’s what you need to know about Doug Jones on the issues:
1. Jones Supports DACA & Opposes the Construction of a Border Wall
In the past, Jones has been openly critical about President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, accusing the president of conflating a small percentage of criminal immigrants with “the much larger number who are seeking opportunity for the families or fleeing political social oppression and violence.”
“The last wall that was constructed to stop people’s movements between countries was the Berlin Wall,” Jones told the Montgomery Advertiser in response to an emailed list of policy questions. “The United States of America is better than that.”
“If we can make a more streamlined process of allowing immigrants into this country legally without all of the backlogs and quotas, we would have far less undocumented immigrants,” he added, indicating that he would support an overhaul of the quota system toward that end.
Jones has frequently panned the proposed wall that would run along the southern border of the U.S., separating it from its neighbor, Mexico, calling the $20 billion project “too expensive.” Instead, he suggested the money be spent on healthcare. “I want to put it on healthcare, I want to get tax cuts for the middle class,” he told Fox News.
He also told AL.com that he would support legislation that would extend or recreate the DREAM Act, which grants amnesty to immigrants who entered the country as minors:
I support the DACA program and would support the DREAM Act or similar legislation to ensure young people brought here as children who have never known any other nation can remain in the United States. Children and young adults in the DACA program are contributing members of our society, serving in the military and owning businesses that employ Americans. More than 109,000 of the DACA participants served in the military and naturalized as citizens as of 2015. In 2016 alone, 359 DACA recipients enlisted in the U.S. Army. DACA participants must maintain clean records and pass background checks and are not threats – simply the product of their parents and grandparents seeking to give them a better life.
2. He Does Not Support Repealing Obamacare, but Says It Has Issues That Must Be Addressed
According to Jones, “health care is a right, not a privilege.” The former U.S. attorney has stated that while he believes the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved upon, he supports its premise and would not support a repeal effort.
“Repeal and replace is a political slogan,” he said at a media event outside a Huntsville hospital. “It’s not something that’s workable.”
“The Affordable Care Act was never supposed to be the end of the discussion about health care in this country,” he added. “It is always going to be a work in progress.”
On his campaign website, Jones describes basic coverage standards that he believes should be included in all health care plans, including preventative care, mental health, maternity care, birth control, serious illness and prescription drug coverage.
He also points to the greater need for quality health care in rural areas as a problem in Alabama:
As pointed out recently by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, ‘Alabama’s rural hospitals have been struggling for years, largely due to inadequate reimbursements, low volume and high operating costs.’ Since 2010, five rural hospitals have closed in Alabama, leaving residents without local care. As Rep. Sewell notes, “We need more robust Medicaid funding in Alabama if our rural hospitals are to survive.”
3. He Is Pro-Choice, but Has Said He Would Not Support a Repeal of Late-Term Abortion Bans
During his tenure as U.S. attorney, Jones helped build a case against Eric Robert Rudolph, an Alabama man who bombed a Birmingham abortion clinic in 1998, killing an off-duty police officer. He has often pointed to the experience as a defining moment of his time with the Justice Department.
Throughout his campaign, he has often espoused support for a woman’s right to choose. In fact, the conservative National Review went so far as to call him a pro-abortion “zealot.” After an interview with MSNBC in September where he indicated that he would not support a 20-week abortion ban, he was criticized by his opponent Roy Moore and other conservatives for being a pro-abortion activist.
“So you wouldn’t be in favor of legislation that said, ban abortion after 20 weeks or something like that?” asked MSNBC’s “Meet the Press Daily” host Chuck Todd.
“I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a woman’s right and her freedom to choose. That’s just the position that I’ve had for many years. It’s a position I continue to have,” Jones replied.
Jones spoke with AL.com after the outcry to clarify his position:
“Those comments, everybody wants to attack you so they are going to make out on those comments what they want to their political advantage,” Jones said. “To be clear, I fully support a woman’s freedom to choose to what happens to her own body. That is an intensely, intensely personal decision that only she, in consultation with her god, her doctor, her partner or family, that’s her choice.
“Having said that, the law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That’s what I support. I don’t see any changes in that. It is a personal decision.”
Leftist political outlets have worried that Jones’ strong position on abortion will alienate his conservative base (58 percent of Alabamans believe that abortion should be illegal). Earlier this month, POLITICO published an op-ed stating that Jones’ position on abortion is his campaign’s greatest weak spot:
It would be difficult for Jones to nuance his personal position on abortion through rhetoric alone at this point, because his public statements have been so strident and well-circulated by conservative media and the Moore campaign. Instead, the stakes of this election might justify an extraordinary step: He could pledge to vote “present” on abortion-related legislation and amendments. If he is unwilling to do this, he needs to find another way to give Alabama pro-life voters who are looking for a way to support him something to hold onto, something they can use as a response when their pro-life friends question their fidelity to the cause.
4. He Is a Methodist Who Supports Religious Freedom but Eschews Extremism
Jones’ opponent, Roy Moore, has made headlines for decades over his refusal to uphold laws that he perceives as infringing upon religious liberty—a viewpoint that got him twice kicked off the state Supreme Court.
But Jones, who has been a constituent of the Canterbury United Methodist Church in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama for more than 33 years, dislikes the notion that his opponent Roy Moore has a monopoly on religion.
“We have our values too,” he told AL.com in September. “I go to church. I’m a Christian. I have as many people of faith that have been reaching out to me about this campaign. Because you can be an extremist. You can take everything to an extreme, and no one really wants that…They want someone who cares about all people, not just a select few…. That’s what I think the teachings of religion are, is the caring about the least of these, the caring about all people, and making sure there’s a fairness to everything.”
5. He Prosecuted KKK Members as a U.S. Attorney, & Has Been Vocal About His Distaste for White Supremacists
On his campaign website, Jones recalls cutting class during his second year of law school so he could go watch the trial of a Klansman who bombed an African-American church 14 years prior, killing four children and wounding four others.
“That was 1977 – the first time I saw real, inspiring change in the cards for Alabama,” writes Jones. Four Klansmen were involved in the bombing, but only one was convicted. The case was reopened in 1980 and 1988, but those investigations did not result in any indictments.
Two decades later, after he was appointed U.S. attorney, Jones re-opened the case and charged two of the remaining three men with first-degree murder; the third was already deceased. Both men were ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Jones has often spoken of the experience while on the campaign trail, lauding it as one of his most triumphant moments at the Justice Department.
“It took a long time for Birmingham to come to grips with the fact that liberty and justice is really for all,” said Jones at the time of the convictions.
The Democrat has not shied away from speaking about his beliefs regarding racial equality. After a young woman was killed at an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Jones tweeted: “We must stop using the term “white nationalists.” They are not patriots, but bigoted white supremacists. Call them what they are!”