Hotly Contested Special Election Underway in Alabama

Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Doug Jones speaks during a rally Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. Jones is facing Republican Roy Moore. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(CN) – Polls show a race too close to call between embattled Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, as the nation braces for results in the special election for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama that has centered on accusations Moore molested and tried to date teenage girls 40 years ago.

Moore said at his final campaign rally Monday that the campaign to fill the vacant Senate seat has taken on a national importance.

Tuesday’s special election is the first senatorial race since President Donald Trump took office, necessitated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions leaving his old seat to become the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Millions of dollars poured into Alabama and A-list politicos like Trump and former President Barack Obama used their clout to stump for their candidates. Others including former White House advisor Steve Bannon and basketball legend Charles Barkley have also traveled to the Heart of Dixie for the race.

Poll aggregator RealClearPolitics shows Moore leading Jones by 2.2 percentage points as of Tuesday morning, but it labels the race as a toss up.

At stake is the U.S. Senate. Republicans hold a narrow majority there and whoever Alabamians choose as their next senator will help shape the judiciary, among other decisions. And while Alabama is traditionally a reliably red state, allegations that Moore pursued relationships with teenage girls threw the race into a tailspin.

The Washington Post reported on allegations last month that Moore, now 70, sought to date and molested girls who were in their teens when he was in his 30s.

At least nine women have come forward, including Leigh Corfman, who claims Moore made inappropriate advances and had sexual contact with her when she was 14.

U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore holds up pages with a news story about himself as he speaks at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in Midland City, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Corfman says Moore, then 32, first approached her in early 1979 outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala., when she was with her mother. After phone calls and meetings, he allegedly drove her to his home a few days later and kissed her. On another visit, Corfman claims Moore took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes except for his underwear before touching her over her bra and underpants and guiding her hand to touch him over his underwear.

Other women have accused Moore of acts ranging from trying to date them to giving them alcohol when they were in their teens.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

The embattled Republican spoke to a crowd of his supporters Monday night in a barn in Midland City, Ala., which sits in the southeast corner of the state, the night before the polls opened in the special election.

During his speech, Moore said Alabama voters wouldn’t let out-of-state influences dictate the election.

“We dare defend our rights and we will defend our rights,” Moore said, quoting the state motto of Alabama.

While Moore and his supporters quoted scripture and condemned “fake news,” his opponent, Jones, scheduled phone banking events and a get-out-the-vote rally Monday.

On social media, the Jones campaign posted a video of a shortened and edited version of a speech he gave last week. It served as the campaign’s closing arguments.

“Our potential is boundless,” Jones said in the video. “This is our moment, our challenge, but our opportunity. Together, we can build a better Alabama that works for all citizens, a better Alabama that we could be proud to have built and be proud to pass it on to our children and grandchildren and particularly our daughters and granddaughters.”

Jones served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 1997 to 2001.

On the campaign trail, he has highlighted his prosecution of members of the Ku Klux Klan who plotted and then carried out the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham in 1963.

He also prosecuted Eric Rudolph, a man who bombed a Birmingham abortion clinic and later set off a bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga.

As the day of the special election breaks over Alabama, the most recent polls have done little to indicate who is favored to win the prized Senate seat.

Released on Monday, an Emerson College Poll suggested Moore was able to sail past the allegations of sexual misconduct and lead Jones by 9 percentage points. The poll, which surveyed 600 likely Alabama voters, is part of an experiment in data collection by Emerson where it used online panels and automated polls.

Live interviewers for a Fox News poll called landlines and cellphones in Alabama last week. After talking with 1,408 registered voters, the survey found that Jones leads Moore by 10 percentage points. The Fox poll found that Jones amassed his support from younger, female and non-white voters.

Meanwhile, a survey of 1,067 people conducted by CBS News and YouGov found that Moore commanded a 6 percent lead at the beginning of December. Of those surveyed, 71 percent did not believe the allegations against him while only 17 percent thought they might be true.

At the Moore rally Monday evening, key members of his campaign stressed the importance of the race. For Bannon, head of Breitbart news and former White House advisor, the stakes of the election include protecting Trump.

In the 10 months Trump has been in office, Bannon said, the president has furthered the agenda of economic nationalism by trying to supercharge the economy with tax cuts and negotiate trade deals with individual countries.

But meanwhile, Bannon said, efforts are underway to nullify Trump’s 2016 election win.

“Alabama is the fire break in all of that,” Bannon said.

According to Bannon, these threats to Trump include the FBI’s Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller, allegations about sexual misconduct, and arguments that he is unfit to serve.

“Sons and daughters of Alabama are going to show the world where they stand for this nation,” Bannon continued. “This is a national election. It is the Trump miracle versus the nullification project.”

Meanwhile, Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, attacked the news media for reports on the allegations against her husband.

“They should be ashamed for getting involved in this election for our opponent,” she said. “They have invaded our town, our community, our church, our family, our records, our friends to include every person that we have ever known. So I’m going to ask you. Have they done this to our opponent? This is a federal election and in my opinion, they should be held accountable.”

She added that her husband was not a racist or anti-Semitic and did not dislike women in leadership positions. Women work in the Moore campaign and Kayla Moore sits as president of their nonprofit, The Foundation for Moral Law, she said.

Besides worshiping with black people at their church, the Moores have fellowshipped with them in their home, Kayla Moore continued. She added they are also friends with Jewish people and rabbis.

“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she said.

In a statement issued Monday, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the special election was “one of the most significant in Alabama’s history,” and encouraged Alabamians to vote.

“It is imperative for Americans to remain focused on our priorities and not give way to side shows and antics,” she said. “I know that Alabamans need an independent voice in Washington. But we must also insist that our representatives are dignified, decent, and respectful of the values we hold dear.”

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