A deafening roar fell over the Birmingham Ballroom inside the Sheraton Hotel in the Magic City as supporters of Doug Jones watched the two large projectors tuned to CNN that showed the Democratic Senate candidate in Alabama’s special election inching closer to Roy Moore. At the time, Jones was still in a hotel room gathering with his family.
A night that began with cautious optimism among Jones’s supporters grew into euphoria minutes later as the election was called for Jones – a race where the Democrat in a dark-red state faced long odds at the start of the campaign; a Democrat had not won an Alabama Senate seat in a quarter century.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Jones, a former federal prosecutor who successfully led the cases against two men behind the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, was leading Moore, 50 percent to 48 percent, according to unofficial results.
Meanwhile, Moore was yet to concede to Jones as of 11 p.m. Tuesday, and the Republican candidate held out hope for a recount, which is triggered when the margin of victory is within a half of a percentage point. The margin was 1 1/2 percentage points.
Shortly after red, white and blue confetti blasted over the ballroom, Jones addressed supporters, crediting his victory with what he said was his campaign’s positive message. While his speech didn’t mention Moore by name, Jones referenced the sexual misconduct allegations that plagued the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice’s campaign.
“I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than divide us,” he said. “This campaign has been about the rule of law,” Jones said. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state … is going to get a fair shake in life.”
Jones had a steady ground game throughout the election and enlisted prominent African American lawmakers and figures, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former Auburn basketball star Charles Barkley, over the weekend to help with outreach to black voters.
He referenced the campaign knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors and making 1.2 million phone calls.
“We tried to make sure that this campaign was about finding common ground,” Jones said, adding that he hoped his victory would send a signal to his future Washington colleagues. “I have this challenge to my future colleagues in Washington: Don’t wait on me. Take this election from the great state of Alabama … where the people said, ‘We want you to get something done. We want you to find common ground.'”
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who like Jones was an underdog when he defeated incumbent William Bell, said Tuesday’s results showed that Alabamians “value decency and integrity.”
“I think Doug Jones’s victory represents what’s right with Alabama,” he said. “That blue dot just got a lot bigger.”