Alabama voters will decide on Tuesday whether to send Republican Roy Moore or Democrat Doug Jones to the Senate in the race to fill the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Polls in the closely-watched, and surprisingly competitive, race close at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Alabama is a deeply conservative state. But Moore’s campaign is embroiled in controversy and allegations of past sexual misconduct, creating an opening for a possible upset by Jones. Moore has a lead of 2.2 points in polling averages, but polls has been all over the place and the outcome could go either way.
Moore is a former Alabama Chief Justice who gained notoriety for defying federal court orders to take down a monument to the Ten Commandments and uphold the legality of same-sex marriage. He faces allegations of sexual assault from multiple women, including women who say they were teenagers when he made advances toward them. Moore has denied the accusations.
Jones is a former U.S. attorney known for prosecuting members of the Ku Klux Klan for the bombing of a black baptist church in Birmingham in the 1960s, an attack that left four girls dead. Despite campaigning in solidly Republican territory, Jones has run as a pro-choice, pro-immigrant-rights Democrat.
If Moore wins, the Senate Republican establishment will have to grapple with the allegations he faces. A number of Senate Republicans have said that Moore will face an ethics investigation if he wins. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner, has said that the Senate should vote to expel Moore if he wins. President Trump has endorsed Moore, and would likely oppose expulsion.
If Jones wins, it would be a major upset. Flipping a Senate seat would narrow the already razor-thin Republican majority in the chamber, making it harder for Republicans to pass significant legislation, like their proposed tax overhaul. Democrats face an uphill battle in the fight to re-claim the Senate in 2018, but winning a seat in the Alabama race would make their fight that much easier.
Moore has long been a controversial figure in Alabama politics, but the race fundamentally changed in November when The Washington Post reported allegations from a woman named Leigh Corfman who said that when she was 14-years-old and Moore was 32-years-old, he initiated unwanted sexual contact. Since then, more women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct leveled at Moore.
The Republican candidate has denied the allegations and called them “ritual defamation.” But his standing in the polls fell dramatically after the news surfaced. Headed into voting, the Republican candidate has re-gained an edge over Jones, but pundits and pollsters say the volatility of the race has made it impossible to predict who will win.
After sexual misconduct allegations against Moore first emerged, the Republican National Committee initially cut ties and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he should “step aside.” The distancing act didn’t last long. By early December, the RNC had restored its financial backing for Moore, after Trump endorsed him. McConnell later said that it’s up to the voters of Alabama to “make the call” on whether Moore should be elected to the Senate.