In a tightly-contested, wire-to-wire race in the Alabama special election for Senate, Democrat Doug Jones defeated controversial Republican candidate Roy Moore.
The unofficial results had the race as close as 49.7 percent for Jones and 48.6 percent for Moore.
Alabama voters found themselves forced to choose between a Republican who’s perceived as a racist and accused of child abuse or a Democrat who has earned a reputation for prosecuting members of the Ku Klux Klan.
The contest also developed as a test of where the Deep South stands today and whether President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and endorsement could still win over voters. Trump campaigned hard for Moore, recording robo-calls for the former judge and convincing the Republican Party to financially back him.
Still, as of early Wednesday with Trump predictably distancing himself from Moore, the defeated judge refused to concede.
“Realizing when the vote is this close, it’s not over,” Moore said. “And, we still got to go by the rules about this recount provision. It’s not over and it’s going to take some time,” he said.
However, Trump took to social media to say he should never have supported Moore.
“The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange and his numbers went up mightily, is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him.”
The president did congratulate Jones.
“Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard-fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win,” Trump said. “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!”
On social media, #RoyMoore trended all day on Twitter with some straightforward and emotional posts.
“That White Supremacist #RoyMoore rode in on a horse to vote. Kudos to him,” said Greg Carr, chair of Howard University’s Department of Afro-American studies and frequent guest on “NewsOne Now” on TV One.
“As white supremacy dies, this is what it looks like. It won’t go without a fight. Bannon. Trump. Moore. All of their comrades and enablers. They’re daring humanity to respond,” Carr added.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) had the following post retweeted more than 30,000 times.
“Another #RoyMoore supporter just called my office posing as an @AP reporter. Once their cover was blown they started screaming; called me and my staff the n-word and other racial slurs,” she said.
“I won’t be intimidated. I won’t stop speaking out. You will not shut me down. Believe it,” she said.
The Rev. Tony Lee, pastor of Community of Hope AME Church in Temple Hills, Maryland, traveled to Alabama to support a friend committed to mobilizing voters.
“In the black belt of Alabama with my sister @mslatoshabrown and her team,” Lee said. “They have been doing an amazing job getting folks to these polls #Alabama.”
Already facing numerous accusations of pedophilia, Moore in recent weeks further aligned himself with the old South with racially-insensitive comments.
When asked by a reporter to explain the last time America could be viewed as great, Moore didn’t hesitate to respond with vitriol that seemed to out-Trump the president’s comments during his time on the campaign trail.
“I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery. They cared for one another,” Moore said. “People were strong in the families. Our families were strong. Our country had a direction.”
Later, he added: “The greatness I see was in our culture, not in all our policies. There were problems. We had slavery; we’ve overcome slavery. We’ve had prejudice; we still have prejudice. But we’ve turned the tide on civil rights. And we’ve done a lot of things to bring this country around and I think we can still make it better.”
Moore’s wife, Kayla, even got into the controversial fray.
One day before the election, Kayla Moore argued that her husband should not be viewed as a bigot.
“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she said.
“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews. And I tell you all this because I’ve seen it and I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” she said. “We have very close friends that are Jewish and rabbis and we also fellowship with them,” she said.
Moore has never been one to avoid controversy.
Even before the allegations of pursuing sexual relationships with teens, Moore emerged as the most controversial major-party Senate nominee in recent memory, according to CNN.
He found himself booted in her previous position as an Alabama Supreme Court chief justice after refusing to remove a two-ton statue of the Ten Commandments he’d ordered placed on state property. He later got the job back at the behest of voters, but then lost his post once again in 2016 for refusing to institute the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage.
The Republican candidate has said homosexual activity should be illegal and argued against removing segregationist language from the state constitution.
One of Moore’s accusers said he molested her when she was 14. Another says he tried to rape her. But, Trump and the GOP still threw their support behind him.
Fifty percent of voters said the allegations against Moore were definitely or probably true, while somewhat fewer, 44 percent, saw them as definitely or probably false, according to preliminary exit polls results reported by ABC News.
A majority of voters, 54 percent, said the allegations served as a minor factor or not a factor at all.
Trump managed only a 47-48 percent approval-disapproval rating in typically Republican Alabama. Those who “strongly” disapprove of the president’s work in office, moreover, outnumbered strong approval by 8 points, 40 percent to 32 percent.
For Democrats, Jones’ win trims the Republican Senate majority to 51-49, effectively dealing another tough blow to Trump.
Many seemed confident going into Tuesday’s election believing that Jones could pull off the victory which most saw as good vs. evil and freedom fighter vs. bigot.
Jones, an attorney and prosecutor, served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and earned significant acclaim for prosecuting the remaining Klansmen responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four African-American girls in 1963.
In addition, he secured an indictment against the Olympic Park Bomber.
“Thank you, Alabama,” Jones tweeted late Tuesday, adding that his victory resulted because of voters from Jewish, Latino and Black communities and the hard work of his campaign volunteers.
“This campaign has been about the rule of law and about dignity and respect,” he said during his victory speech. “No matter what zip code you live in, this has been about making sure everyone gets a fair shake. There are important issues facing this country. And I want to make sure that we can find common ground for all of our citizens. Alabama has been in the crossroads in the past, usually we’ve taken the wrong road. Today, you took the right road.”
WI staff writer William J. Ford contributed to this story.