Best Continuing Coverage-- Jones/Moore Race for the U.S. Senate

Feb 2, 2018

Please find enclosed Alabama Public Radio’s entry for the best continuing coverage, titled “Jones/Moore Race for the U.S. Senate.”

The race for Alabama’s junior U.S. Senate, formerly held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, generated more than a little national attention. Civil rights champion, and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones faced twice-removed Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. The campaign pitted Jones’ view of putting Alabama on the “right of history” against Moore’s “fire and brimstone” goal of taking his brand of evangelical Christianity to Washington, D.C.

President Trump threw his support behind Moore, after supporting his GOP rival in Alabama’s Republican runoff. Trump endorsement came despite allegations against Moore including sexual assault, child molestation, and sexual misconduct involving teenagers. Trump stumped for Moore, but declined to come to Alabama to campaign for the Senate hope. The Commander-in-Chief did, however, come within twenty miles of Alabama for a political rally in Pensacola, Florida. APR’s Alex AuBuchon travelled to the Sunshine State to bring our listeners this story.

I reported on how the Jones/Moore race could represent political change in Alabama. Political observers note how Jones’ progressive message offered voters the opportunity to “be on the right side of history,” while Moore’s platform was that everything is fine the way it in in Alabama.

Finally, APR student reporter Allison Mollenkamp reported on the “dog whistle” issue of abortion in Alabama. Moore’s campaign focused on how Jones is pro-choice. Mollenkamp examined the difficulties women in Alabama currently have in seeking to legally end a pregnancy.

Respectfully submitted,

Pat Duggins

News Director

Alabama Public Radio

Trump Rally

President Donald Trump held a campaign-style rally in Pensacola as part of a weekend trip across the Gulf Coast – less than 20 miles from the Alabama state line and just four days before the hotly contested Senate election between Doug Jones and Roy Moore. Some political experts believed the event would be a de facto campaign stop for Roy Moore. Others said Trump was there to thank the Pensacola area for their strong support during last year’s election. APR’s Alex AuBuchon was on hand at the rally and files this report.

[FX UP: Trump Chant, duck to cheers and ambient bed]

Thousands of supporters braved freezing rain and near-freezing temperatures in Pensacola Friday night to cheer on President Donald Trump. Attendees came from all over. I spoke to several from the Pensacola area as well as a few who drove a long way to attend, like Roy Seitz (Sights), who drove four hours from Louisiana to show his support for the President. “I’m here to cheer him on and support everything he says. I pretty much am on board with everything he’s promising the American public.”

Maurice Symonette (SIM-uh-NET) travelled all the way from Miami to turn out for Trump. He led a group of supporters who wore T-shirts and held signs reading ‘Blacks for Trump 2020’. “It’s just a group of brothers and sisters that are supporting Trump, that’s all it is. Because he’s the right man for the job. He’s taking taxes down and getting rid of all these stupid regulations that keep me from doing business, so that’s why we’re with him.”

President Trump even gave the group a shout-out during his speech: “I love these guys, look at these guys. ‘Blacks for Trump.’ I love you. [cheers] I love you. [cheers] By the way, now that you bring it up, black home ownership just hit the highest level it’s ever been in the history of our country. Congratulations. [cheers]”

That’s not true, by the way. Peak African-American home ownership was 49.7% in the middle of 2004, according to the Census Bureau. It’s currently hovering around 42%. One thing on most of the rallygoers’ minds was how the President would address Alabama’s Senate election. Richard Foss of nearby Cantonment (Can-TONE-ment) Florida mentioned a story that had broken earlier that day.

“Really, I’m kind of interested to see if he’s going to say something about the news that came out today about that accuser of Roy Moore actually writing more stuff in her yearbook.” President Trump didn’t disappoint. “So did you see what happened today?

You know, the yearbook? Did you see that? There was a little mistake made. She started writing things in the yearbook. Ahh, what are we going to do? Gloria Allred – any time you see her, you know something’s going wrong.” Plenty of Friday night’s attendees will be eligible to vote in tomorrow’s election. “How many people here are from the great state of Alabama? [cheers]” I spoke with two of those people, Gwen McCrory and Mark Glass of Theodore, Alabama, and asked them who they’ll be voting for. Ms. McCrory didn’t waste any time.

“Moore. Everything he’s done, in his past, I hope he brings that with him. He’s a good guy.” Glass was a little more hesitant. “Ahh… Republican. Just, always. I have to. It’s obligated, at this point.” For his part, President Trump didn’t have much to say about Roy Moore as a candidate. Not the case with his opponent. “We can’t afford to have a liberal Democrat who is completely controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. We can’t do it. Can’t do it. His name is Jones, and he’s their total puppet, and everybody knows it. He will never, ever vote for us.”

Trump did stress the importance of Moore’s vote in the Senate. “We need someone in that Senate seat who will vote for our Make America Great Again agenda.” And he did end up offering a full endorsement. “So get out and vote for Roy Moore. [cheers] Do it.”

The special election for U.S. Senate between Doug Jones and Roy Moore is tomorrow. Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. To find your polling place, head to Alabama Votes dot gov. But regardless of how tomorrow’s election pans out, I did overhear one conversation that proves some debates will never be settled. “Ohio actually had a better record.” “Yeah, but that ain’t the point…” I’m Alex AuBuchon, Alabama Public Radio news in Pensacola, Florida.

[FX: Football fight fades]

Jones and Moore = Slow Political Change for Alabama?

The political world is still reeling from reports in the Washington Post about Roy Moore. The paper quotes four women from Alabama who say the Republican candidate pursued them sexually when they were teenagers. One of these women was just fourteen years old at the time and Moore was thirty two. Supporters of the twice-removed Alabama Chief Justice are lining up behind while GOP leaders in Washington are keeping their distance. Other observers are watching else in Moore’s race against Democrat Doug Jones for Alabama’s junior U.S. Senate seat. They see an Alabama that may be showing small signs of change…

“I just…I’m hoping for the best," says Bill Eubanks from Pinson. He’s also a voter with something specific in mind… “That we’ll get someone in office who is honest and reputable and will do the right thing regardless of their personal motivations.”

Eubanks is talking about the race for Alabama’s junior U.S. Senate seat. And, considering the events of the past few days, what he’s looking for may seem a little more difficult. Like any general election race, it’s a tale of two candidates.

“They told me in 1997 when I became U.S. Attorney that prosecuting a case that was almost forty years old was a long shot," says Democrat Doug Jones. His message appears to be Alabama, warts and all, can be better “But you know what?When you’re on the right side of history and the right side of justice, you can do anything!”

And for the Republicans…

“Well, we’re in Alabama," says Roy Moore. "And in Alabama for the rest of the world to hear, we dare defend our rights, we don’t stop kicking.”

Former Chief Justice Roy Moore's heavily Christian message appears to be Alabama is okay as it is…

“We’ve got to go back to God. We’ve got to back to a moral base" he says

And it’s not just voters like Bill Eubanks who are looking for answers in this race for U.S. Senate. Others are watching how the race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones represents change in Alabama—just not quick change…

“When people think about public opinion change, they have this conversion image like people go to bed thinking one way, and they wake up one way completely differently," says Dr. Steve Borrelli. He teaches Southern political science at the University of Alabama.

“Most…you know…large scale movements in public opinion don’t work that way," he says.

Doug Jones progressive message appears to be holding its own against Roy Moore’s conservative Christian one. A poll taken on Friday by Decision Desk and Opinion Saavy puts the race in a dead heat. A survey released just yesterday by JMC Analytics and Polling gives Jones a four point lead. Both Jones and Moore are born and bred Alabamians. Jones is from Birmingham and Moore is Gadsden. And, they’re only seven years apart in age. Moore is seventy and Jones is sixty three. Despite that slight age difference, Borrelli says Jones reflects growing up in the turbulent civil rights era in the 1960’s…

“I think what Doug Jones has done that, is take that traditional defensiveness…like we’re not as bad as we’re being made to seem," Borrelli says. "And couple it with a more progressive argument for genuine change.”

Borelli says that reflects a time in the 1970’s and 80’s when political power in Alabama was more evenly split. However, GOP reactions in Alabama following the Washington Post’s allegations of child molestation against Moore indicates how strongly his followers and supporters are standing by him. State Auditor Jim Zeigler for example, compared Moore’s situation to that of an underage Virgin Mary who was wed to the older carpenter Joseph. Borrelli says the evangelical notion of forgiveness and redemption might work in Moore’s favor…maybe…

“It didn’t work for Robert Bentley,” says Borelli. He's referring to Governor Robert Bentley who made no bones about his Christian faith during his campaign and his time in office. Borrelli says Alabama was less forgiving after Bentley pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor campaign finance violations. That was also after being tape recorded making sexually explicit statements to a female aide. Borrelli says Roy Moore’s situation is different from Bentley’s…

“Even though he portrayed himself as a traditional values type Christian, I don’t think it was as central to his image as a politician as it was for Roy Moore.”

Within hours of the Washington Post story, we put that question to APR political commentator Steve Flowers. He thinks Moore’s followers don’t care…

“They believe this late in the campaign…that something that came up that may have happened thirty or forty years ago. And hearsay, and he said she said scenario …they’re going to look at as political sabotage…by the liberal Washington Post media.”

However, that may not apply to everyone in Alabama. The Doug Jones campaign has been holding rallies in communities including Mobile, Birmingham, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa. Borelli says that’s not accidental, and a specific voter is the target..

“Some of Strange voters….voters for Strange," says Borrelli. "…something you’ve heard before, I’m sure.”

Borrelli is referring to moderate Republicans who backed Luther Strange failed primary bid against Roy Moore. It appears the Doug Jones is trying to get these people to jump ship and abandon. Steve Flowers says it may be working…

“You can go through neighborhoods of upscale… urbane…establishment Republican neighborhoods…Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Mobile," says Flowers. "And you see Doug Jones signs in almost every yard.”

Which takes back to people like Bill Eubanks. He came to hear Doug Jones speak at a rally in Birmingham…

“I knew his record, that he had tried Eric Rudolph and the KKK for the 16th Street bombing," says Eubanks who's mixing cases from Jones days as U.S. Attorney. He led the prosecution of Rudolph for the 1996 Olympic park bombing, and successfully convicted two Klansmen for the 1963 bombing in Birmingham. Eubanks is registered as an Independent, but he leans Democratic..

“And, I don’t see how you fake that. He seemed to me like he spoke from the heart, and I don’t see how you fake that  ”

But, for every voter going for Doug Jones, the polls say another voter is going for Roy Moore. So, unless something big breaks, we may not know the result until the ballots are counted<

Moore-Jones/Abortion feature

We’re just a day away from the special General Election to pick Alabama’s next junior U.S. Senate. Republican Roy Moore is refusing to take questions over on-going allegation of sexual misconduct, child abuse, and attempted rape. He is willing to talk about Democrat Doug Jones stance in favor of abortion rights. APR student reporter Allison Mollenkamp looked into what women in Alabama currently face when they choose to end a pregnancy… “We all sat there for nine hours and almost none of us spoke.” That’s Christina Frantom. I meet her in a coffee shop here in Tuscaloosa to hear her story of when she decided to have an abortion.

“We had to wait. There was a group of us, probably about twenty women, who had to wait at the clinic for about nine hours in order for the practitioner to arrive.” Twenty women waited for nine hours that day at the Planned Parenthood in Birmingham. It’s one of five clinics that perform abortions in Alabama. That’s a lot fewer than some other states. Florida has seventy-one. But it’s more than some others too. Mississippi just has one. Having so few means that many women live a significant distance from their nearest provider. However, there are people to help.

“I generally just kind of fill in the gaps. It’s mostly based out of Huntsville," says Victoria Smith. She’s a volunteer with the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates, or ARRA. She’s also the proud owner of three dogs, who wanted to get a word in too. “But occasionally there will be patients in Tuscaloosa that need a ride, or need a place to stay. We’ve got an RV and patients are always welcome to stay overnight if they have a two day procedure.”

Rides and places to stay are ARRA’s way of helping women seeking abortions. Even once you’re at the clinic, though, there are challenges. Christina Frantom had advantages a lot of women don’t in terms of being able to take time off and having health insurance. Here she is again.

“A lot of the women who were there had to leave and come back and make other arrangements and so it was," she recalls. " I got to see first-hand, like, as it happened in real time, not just the laws but also the social repercussions.”

There are lots of challenges associated with taking nine hours out of your work day. In addition to transportation and perhaps a place to stay, these women needed time off from their jobs, and in some cases money for childcare. Frantom says those barriers are made worse by a law Alabama that requires counseling. “Really it’s just like ‘here’s a point of no return and then here’s a point of no return and then here’s a point of no-return.’”

Victoria Smith sees the counseling a little differently. She used to administer it.

“It’s not counseling. It’s an informed consent. My job was basically to scare the sh*t out of somebody who was already scared.”

In Alabama counseling is required forty-eight hours before an abortion can be performed. That adds to the time necessary to get an abortion. It’s also not the only thing that may scare abortion seekers. Protestors are a common sight at clinics in Alabama. So common that some clinics have defenders.

“What a defender is is speaking to companions," says Helmi Henkin. She's a member of the West Alabama Women’s Clinic Defenders. I meet her outside the Tuscaloosa clinic early one morning. “They just open up to us about their lives, the circumstances that brought them to the clinic. You learn a lot about somebody just from how emotionally vulnerable they are because this is such an emotionally vulnerable experience for them.”

Logistically, Henkin’s work is simple. She walks people from their cars to the clinic. That way, they don’t have to interact with protestors. “A lot of times they give false information or they encourage going to the crisis pregnancy center as your first appointment” Crisis pregnancy centers, by the way, are not abortion clinics. They encourage other options, such as adoption. “…and they tell them that the crisis pregnancy center counts for your first appointment, which it doesn’t.”

I go back to the West Alabama Women’s clinic in Tuscaloosa a few days later to hear from the protestors themselves. I’m met with a quieter scene than I expected.

“We are out here and we pray, and we fast," says Paul Lake. He’s with a group called Forty Days to Life, which is not associated with Forty Days for Life. “They’re kind of in trouble and we just try to help them get out of trouble.”

When Christina Frantom went to Birmingham for her abortion, there were protestors. She thought their rhetoric might upset some of the other women, so she went to talk to them.

“It was all women," she recalls "And they all had the signs, you know the horrible signs that are shaming and terrible, and then as I was speaking to them, they were all telling their personal stories of their children who they didn’t abort, and how they were going to but then didn’t and how they feel guilty that they considered it.”

She says many of the women have children with special needs and protest as a way to advocate for their children. “That’s the irony of it, right, is women who are terminating pregnancies are making the most important decision as mothers that they possibly can for their children, unborn or otherwise. So that was kind of, it kind of broke my brain a little bit, the irony that people are standing on two sides with the same, same motivation I guess.”

Frantom says her decision to get an abortion came from knowing what it means to be a mother and a co-parent. At the time she was thirty-four, divorced, and mother to one daughter. She did not want a child from an abusive relationship that was about to end. Looking back on the experience, she doesn’t regret her decision.

“But I do have one regret for that, on that day there was one woman in there who was younger,"  and she probably cried the entire time. She just silently, like, wept in her chair, and nobody spoke to her or comforted her or said anything to her, ‘cause we weren’t sure what was happening.”

Frantom says for any other medical procedure, there is a community of support. But around abortion, especially in Alabama, there’s mostly silence. For APR News, I’m Allison Mollenkamp in Tuscaloosa.