#DougMeetsMiles: Jones Takes Questions Via Twitter at Forum With College Students


Sen. Doug Jones spoke to students at Miles College on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019.

Robert Carter, BirminghamWatch


By Robert Carter

Sen. Doug Jones mentioned early in his remarks before an audience of students from Miles College that when he went to Washington, D.C., after winning a special election to the U.S. Senate, he didn’t realize that he was going to be a part of a government that functioned according to what someone says on Twitter — an oblique reference to President Donald Trump’s penchant for tweets that make the nation’s capital go topsy-turvy.

Then he opened the floor for questions, which were submitted via Twitter using the hashtag #DougMeetsMiles.

Students could therefore be forgiven for working on their smart phones during Jones’ appearance Thursday at Pearson Hall on the campus of the historically black college in Fairfield. It was one of several town hall meetings he held at universities and colleges across the state during the Senate’s recess.

Jones faced a friendly crowd, who asked him mostly about issues that are part of the Democratic Party agenda. Restoration of voting rights for felons, abortion rights, ways of combating the recent wave of mass shootings and help for those with heavy debt loads from student loans were among the topics the students posed to Alabama’s junior senator.

“Let’s not talk about gun control, because when you say ‘gun control,’ people run off into their corners,” Jones said. “Let’s talk about gun violence. We have 40,000 people a year who die from gun violence … and 24,000 of them are from suicides.” Jones has long referred to himself as a “Second Amendment guy,” touting his love of hunting and target shooting, and he reiterated that stand in the forum.

Jones also criticized the Alabama Legislature’s passage of strict laws controlling abortion, calling the laws “a big mistake” and “the product of a gerrymandered legislature.” He also cautioned listeners against calling those who support abortion rights “pro-abortion.”

“Nobody’s for abortion. I get so tired of people who say we’re pro-abortion. I wish there was a way in this world where women didn’t have to make such choices … . We need to get out of those corners and talk to each other, agree to disagree about certain things, and respect each other for our disagreements,” he said. “It’s ironic that we (in Alabama) can pass such a restrictive law when we lead the nation in infant mortality.”

One of the questions submitted through Twitter asked whether Alabama could raise more money for education by legalizing and taxing marijuana, as some states have done. Jones didn’t address the funding issue directly, but said he believed that marijuana should be removed from the federal government’s schedule of controlled substances so that more research could be done into possible beneficial uses.

“But a state that won’t even pass a damn lottery is going to have a hard time (passing) that,” he added.

As for next year’s presidential election and how Democrats would help defeat Trump, Jones joked, “I think President Trump is helping the Democrats as much as he can.” He added that he thinks his party’s candidates “are fighting with each other, and that’s to be expected in a primary. There’s some good proposals out there, but there’s some I don’t agree with.”

Jones is in the early stages of his own re-election campaign, as he seeks a full term in the Senate. He has no Democratic primary opponents yet, while Republicans will select from a slate that includes U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who narrowly lost the special election to Jones in 2017, is also a possible candidate for the GOP primary on March 3.


Local health officials plan to increase monkeypox vaccinations

Health officials will soon begin offering intradermal vaccinations, reaching more people with less vaccine.

Combating gun violence remains a top focus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As violent crime in Birmingham and the surrounding area continues to increase, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Prim Escalona, uses a variety of tools and strategies to get firearms and bad guys off the street.

Some 3rd graders in local schools could be held back under new law 

This is the first school year that third graders who do not read at grade level by the end of the school year must be held back in that grade, rather than passed on to fourth grade. The Alabama Literacy Act was passed several years ago, but its implementation was delayed because of the pandemic.

How one Birmingham custodian preps for the first day of school

When the kids are away, the custodial and maintenance staff in schools work all summer long. One custodian told WBHM about what it takes to keep the kids happy and healthy as they trade sunshine for fluorescent lights.

Dollar store workers are organizing for a better workplace. Just don’t call it a union.

Fired up by a labor movement that’s seen big union victories recently, dollar store workers are organizing in their own way to improve work conditions.

Bill Clark has a knack for making comebacks. Will he make one more? 

Bill Clark has had to overcome some serious hurdles during his career at UAB, as well as in his personal life. He not only resurrected a football program that had been neglected—and then out-right killed—he’s also been fighting through what he’s called a serious injury since childhood.

More BirminghamWatch Coverage