On Eve of Election Day, All Eyes on Alabama

(CN) – Prominent voices are weighing in as the nation waits to see how Alabamians cast their votes Tuesday in a special election for a vacant U.S. Senate seat, including the state’s senior senator, who said he cannot support fellow Republican Roy Moore in light of sexual-misconduct claims involving teenagers.

FILE – In this Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, file photo, former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a rally, in Fairhope, Ala. In the face of sexual misconduct allegations, Moore’s U.S. Senate campaign has been punctuated by tense moments and long stretches without public appearances. Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat in the Dec. 12 election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Richard Shelby, a Republican who holds Alabama’s other Senate seat, said he wrote in another Republican’s name on his absentee ballot instead of pulling the lever for Moore, who has been accused by nine women of sexual harassment or misconduct. Most of them say they were underage at the time, but Moore has denied any wrongdoing.

For Shelby, the tipping point came when The Washington Post reported that a woman named Leigh Corfman said Moore touched her over her underwear and tried to get her to touch him nearly 40 years ago. She claims she was 14 and he was in his 30s.

“Well, I’d rather see the Republican win, but I would hope that Republican would be a write-in,” Shelby said. “I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore, I didn’t vote for Roy Moore, but I wrote in a distinguished Republican name and I think a lot of people could do that. Will they do it? I’m not sure.”

Shelby’s rejection of his fellow Republican is one of the final twists before the election to decide the race between Moore and Democratic candidate Doug Jones. In the reliably red state of Alabama, the question has been how many people who traditionally vote Republican will switch their vote or stay home.

According to RealClearPolitics, Moore leads Jones by 2.5 percentage points in polling as of Monday. The poll aggregator calls the race a toss up.

While Shelby opted for a write-in candidate, few potential voters considered supporting someone other than Moore or Jones. According to polling done by the Trafalgar Group last week, only 3.35 percent of respondents supported someone other than the two candidates on the ballot in the special election, which will fill the Senate seat left vacant by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Donald Trump, who endorsed Moore, has framed the race as a larger partisan issue, saying Moore is needed on Capitol Hill to further Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda, which includes confirming conservative judges to the federal bench.

On Saturday, the president spoke about the senate race at a rally in Pensacola, Fla. Trump began his comments on Moore, flanked by signs that said Merry Christmas, after a man in the crowd yelled out “We want Roy Moore!” Trump asked how many people at the Florida rally hailed from Alabama and the crowd responded with cheers.

“The future of this country cannot afford to lose a seat in the very, very close United States Senate,” Trump said. “We cannot afford it, folks, we can’t. We cannot afford to have a liberal Democrat who is completely controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.”

He continued, “So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it, do it, do it.”

Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, has also added his voice to the race, recording a phone message imploring Alabama voters to choose Jones.

“Doug Jones if a fighter for equality, for progress. Doug will be our champion for justice. So get out and vote, Alabama,” the message reportedly says. It does not mention Moore by name.

The fallout over the allegations against Moore has divided the Republican Party. Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said on Twitter last week that he chose “country over party” and cut a $100 check to Jones’ campaign.

According to the Federal Elections Commission, Moore raised $5.2 million during the campaign while Jones doubled that, bringing in $11.7 million.

Moore has denied the allegations against him, saying last month that he “did not date underage girls.”

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, Moore has described the race as a “spiritual battle” because of what he sees as a smear campaign against him. And in the final stretch, Moore’s campaign stressed his military experience and anti-abortion position.

Before making a bid for the Senate, Moore served as chief justice for Alabama’s Supreme Court, but was twice removed – in 2003 after defying a judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from his courthouse, and again in 2016 for telling the state’s probate judges to defy federal orders on same-sex marriage.

Jones served as U.S. attorney for Northern Alabama from 1997 to 2001, prosecuting two members of the Ku Klux Klan for their involvement in bombing Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963.

In a speech last week, Jones said the biggest issue he wants to focus on is health care, opposing Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, perhaps better known as Obamacare. His second biggest issue is education, saying Alabama’s schools are underperforming.

“The extreme partisanship that has emerged over the last few years has made it nearly impossible for anyone to get anything done for the betterment of our nation or for the benefit of its people,” Jones said. “I’ve spent my career in service of Alabama, working with anyone regardless of their politics or beliefs in order to help the people of this state.”

During interviews over the weekend, Republican Sens. Shelby, Tim Scott of South Carolina and John Thune of South Dakota, as well as U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said Moore will probably face the Senate’s Ethics Committee if he wins Tuesday’s election. The committee could expel or censure Moore.

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