Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama, putting the Senate seat back in Republican hands three years after a surprising special election loss.
It’s a key pickup that Republicans have been counting on to help them keep control of the Senate. Democrats targeted a number of GOP-held states across the country this year, but Alabama was the one state where Republicans were favored to pad their majority.
Of all the political surprises during President Donald Trump’s four years in the White House, a Democrat winning an Alabama Senate race was among the most shocking election results. But that’s what Jones did in 2017 after Trump named former Sen. Jeff Sessions to his Cabinet, sparking a special election that went sideways for the GOP.
Appointed Sen. Luther Strange proceeded to lose the primary to Roy Moore, a hard-right former judge who had only narrowly won his last run for statewide office, for state Supreme Court in 2012. When Moore was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with underage girls decades earlier, Jones, a former federal prosecutor, was able to stitch together enough votes to flip Alabama.
Despite Alabama’s conservative bent, Jones regularly passed on high-profile opportunities to break with his party. He voted to convict Trump on impeachment charges, and he voted against confirming Trump’s picks for the Supreme Court.
Tuberville, a first-time candidate, was among a crowded field of Republicans running to flip the seat back in 2020, including Moore and Sessions, who was booted from his post as attorney general by Trump in 2018. Tuberville went head-to-head with Sessions in a primary runoff, saying Sessions — who was the first senator to endorse Trump for president — was insufficiently supportive of Trump while in office.
And Trump backed Tuberville, mocking Sessions on Twitter and helping the former football coach defeat his onetime ally.
Jones enjoyed a fundraising advantage for most of the race, despite the national Democratic Party’s reluctance to support him in a reelection campaign many thought was doomed from the start — unless he somehow managed to face Moore again. Most polls throughout the year showed Jones down by double digits, and political analysts consistently rated him as the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbent.
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