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Final Push for Alabama Senate Race     12/11 06:18

   Alabama Democrats see Tuesday's special Senate election as a chance to 
renounce a history littered with politicians whose race-baiting, bombast and 
other baggage have long soiled the state's reputation beyond its borders. Many 
Republicans see the vote as chance to ratify their conservative values and 
protect President Donald Trump's agenda ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

   HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama Democrats see Tuesday's special Senate 
election as a chance to renounce a history littered with politicians whose 
race-baiting, bombast and other baggage have long soiled the state's reputation 
beyond its borders.

   Many Republicans see the vote as chance to ratify their conservative values 
and protect President Donald Trump's agenda ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

   At the center are Republican Roy Moore, a former jurist twice removed as 
state chief justice and now accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls 
decades ago, and Democrat Doug Jones, an erstwhile federal prosecutor best 
known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for killing four black 
girls in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church.

   The winner will take the seat held previously by Trump's attorney general, 
Jeff Sessions. Republicans control the Senate with 52 seats.

   In truth, the matchup mixes both Alabama's tortured history and the nation's 
current divisive, bitterly partisan politics, and it has made a spectacle of a 
Deep South state well acquainted with national scrutiny but not accustomed to 
competitive general elections.

   "This is an election to tell the whole world what we stand for," Jones told 
supporters at one stop Sunday, adding that his campaign "is on the right side 
of history." At an earlier appearance, he declared Alabama is "at a crossroads" 
and that Moore, an unapologetic evangelical populist, tries only to "create 
conflict and division."

   Jones, 63, stops short of explicitly comparing Moore to the four-term Gov. 
George Wallace, whose populism was rooted in segregation. But Jones alluded 
Sunday to that era of Alabama politics.

   "Elect a responsible man to a responsible office," Jones said, repeating the 
campaign slogan of another Alabama governor, Albert Brewer, who nearly defeated 
Wallace in 1970 in a contest Alabama liberals and many moderates still lament 
as a lost opportunity.

   Some of Jones' supporters put it even more bluntly. "I thought Alabama's 
image was pretty much at the bottom," said Pat Lawrence, a retired software 
engineer in Huntsville. A Moore win, Lawrence added, "will be a whole new 
bottom."

   Those concerns extend even to some GOP quarters. Alabama's senior senator, 
Richard Shelby, confirmed Sunday that he did not vote for Moore, saying he 
wrote in another "distinguished" party figure he declined to name.

   Yet for many Republicans, Moore is a paragon of traditional values. They 
reject accusations that he molested two teenage girls and pursued relationships 
with others decades ago. Moore denies the charges.

   "Everyone has to vote their convictions," said Kevin Mims of Montgomery, as 
he held his Bible outside his Baptist church Sunday in Montgomery. "My 
conviction is he's the right man for the job."

   Where Moore's critics see a state judge who defied federal courts, including 
the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Mims see a 
stalwart who stands "on the word of God." Other conservatives see an 
anti-establishment firebrand in the mold of Trump, who won Alabama by 28 
percentage points.

   Moore encourages that view with fundraising emails that urge backers to help 
him "defeat the elite," a swipe at both Democrats and the establishment 
Republicans who tried to deny him the GOP nomination earlier this year.

   Ultimately, Republicans from Moore to Trump himself are betting on a simple 
bottom line: Most Alabama conservatives simply won't defect to a Democrat.

   "If Alabama elects liberal Democrat Doug Jones, all of our progress will be 
stopped cold," Trump says in a robocall the Moore campaign plans to push out 
Monday.

   The president also invokes a common fear among Republicans, calling Jones "a 
puppet of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer," the Democratic House and Senate 
leaders in Washington, both of them reviled by conservative voters. "Roy Moore 
is the guy we need to pass our Make American Great Again agenda," the president 
insists.

   Moore's baggage could make it difficult to draw conclusions about what the 
results might mean beyond Alabama, but both parties are watching closely.

   Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats to reclaim a House majority, and 
they're trying to dent the slim Republican advantage in the Senate and its 
dominance of statehouses around the country. In many of those races, they'll 
need the same thing Jones must get to win in Alabama: strong turnout among 
young and non-white voters, along with improved performance among suburban 
moderates.

   A Jones victory would be hailed as a potential precursor, and Democrats have 
indicated they have a post-Alabama strategy even if Jones loses: They'll take 
Alabama's brand national, hammering Republicans as "the party of Donald Trump 
and Roy Moore."


(KA)

 
 
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