BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) — Alabama voters gave Democrat Doug Jones a longshot victory Tuesday, electing him to the U.S. Senate by a 1.5 percentage point edge over former judge Roy Moore, reducing Republicans’ margin of control of the Senate to one seat.
Heavy black turnout and strong support from the suburbs helped Jones, a former federal prosecutor, beat back support in rural Alabama. Jones won 68 percent of the vote in greater Birmingham, which includes some wealthy, heavily white suburbs, and collected more votes than Alabamians gave to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Jones took 49.9 percent of the votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, to Moore’s 48.4 percent. By early morning Moore refused to concede, though Jones led him by 31,311 votes: 670,551 to 649,240. The state Republican Party indicated it would not support Moore’s suggestion that he would demand a recall. Moore told his election night party that he would ask the secretary of state to explain Alabama’s recount rules.
Because Jones’s margin of victory was more than 1 percent, an automatic recount will not be triggered. Write-in and military votes must reduce the margin to 0.5 percent for a recount to be required. But Moore stubbornly refused to concede. “Realize that when the vote is this close that it’s not over,” he said. “We also know that God is always in control.”
The Associated Press called the election for Jones around 9:24 p.m., Alabama time.
At his own election night party Jones told supporters, some of whom were crying: “This entire race has been about dignity and respect. This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state regardless of which ZIP code you live in is going to get a fair shake.”
Set against a nationwide awakening about pervasive sexual harassment and the need to correct it, Moore throughout the campaign denied allegations from nine women that he had sexually harassed or assaulted them when they were teens and he was in his thirties. The most disturbing report came from a woman who said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14. Moore denied it all and called the women liars manipulated by Democrats.
President Donald Trump tweeted congratulations to Jones, who was elected to fill the seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions when he was appointed attorney general.
“Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory,” Trump tweeted. “The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!”
Alabamians gave Trump a 24-point victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, with 62.1 percent of the vote. The enormous turnaround on Tuesday, despite Trump’s endorsement of Moore, gave Democrats renewed hope of capturing one or both houses of Congress in the 2018 midterms, and Republicans expressed concern that their strength may be dwindling in what several Republican officials and advisers have described as the party’s civil war.
The Tuesday election was viewed as a loss for a leader of that civil war, onetime Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who advised Moore and campaigned for him heavily in Alabama.
Moore was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court, first for refusing to remove a giant monument to the Ten Commandments he’d had installed at the Alabama Justice Building in 2003.