Democrats Hope for a Comeback in the U.S. Senate Race

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The attack ads and the media attention have been all around the GOP Senate primary Tuesday. You wouldn’t know it, but there’s also Democratic race here. Doug Jones is best known for successfully prosecuting the 16th Street Baptist Church bombers and helping indict Birmingham abortion clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. Now the former US Attorney is running in the Democratic Senate primary for the seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions.

At a rally where Jones spoke this weekend, there’s was a lot of talk about fear among Democrats. Ohio Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan was in Birmingham Saturday campaigning for Jones. At Saturn, an event venue in Avondale, Ryan urged Democrats to be fearless. And that gave retired librarian Diann Weatherly hope. She says Jones’ words inspired her, too.

“He has such a message of economic equality, of getting our middle class back, of really pressing for health care,” she says.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan campaigning for Doug Jones told the crowd Jones is the Alabama Democrats' best shot at a return to the U.S. Senate. "We will rock the Republicans," he said.

Gigi Douban
Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan campaigning for Doug Jones told the crowd Jones is the Alabama Democrats’ best shot at a return to the U.S. Senate. “We will rock the Republicans,” he said.

Jones told the dozens there he’d had a good week last week, and rattled off endorsements from former Vice President Joe Biden to Congresswoman Terri Sewell. State Rep. Patricia Todd introduced Jones saying the Republicans handed the Democrats a perfect opportunity for a comeback.

Philip Foster, another retiree at the rally, says it’s unlikely Alabama voters would elect a Democrat to the Senate. After all, it’s been more than 20 years since that’s happened. “It’s a long-shot,” he says, “but at the same time the three primary Republican challengers are just ridiculous candidates.”

He’s talking about the top three GOP contenders: incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, Congressman Mo Brooks, and former Chief Justice Roy Moore. Another more visible candidate in the Democratic primary is Michael Hansen, executive director of GASP, an environmental group in Birmingham. Foster says Hansen is sharp, but he doesn’t think he can compete with any of the GOP candidates in the general election in December.

But before December, there’s the primary in the middle of August. It’s a tough time to have an election. Jones says getting voters to the polls is going to be a big challenge. “Obviously we’re in the end of summer between school starting back. And we expect a low turnout,” he says.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill projects turnout around 20 to 25 percent. Jones says that affects his chances — and his party’s chances — more than who wins the GOP primary.

“We think that any one of the Republican candidates give Democrats an unbelievable chance,” Jones says.

Eight Democrats are vying for the Senate seat. But Jones made a name for himself prosecuting former KKK members in the re-opened case of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls. Some Democrats say he might offer the best hope of beating the Republicans.

For more on the Senate race, here’s a guide, including candidate profiles.

 

 

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