Alabama 2020 Senate race: What to know about the Doug Jones-Tommy Tuberville contest

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After Trump-backed Tommy Tuberville emerged victorious in the Republican primary over former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Senate race is soundly underway between Tuberville and incumbent Democrat Doug Jones.

As Republicans seek to keep their majority in the Senate, they have their eyes on defeating a Democratic incumbent in a state that overwhelmingly voted for President Trump in 2016.

Here’s what to know about the Alabama Senate race:

Who are the candidates? 

Doug Jones

Jones won the Senate seat in 2017 in a special election, filling the seat Sessions left vacant to serve as U.S. Attorney General. Sessions, a Republican, had held the seat since 1997. Jones was the first Democrat to represent Alabama in the Senate in 21 years.

Jones defeated Republican Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore in December, one month after three women accused Moore of past sexual misconduct. Two of the women were minors at the time of the alleged incident. Moore vehemently denied the claims.

Six other women accused Moore of pursuing romantic relationships with them or engaging in inappropriate behavior while they were between the ages of 16 and 22 and Moore had been in his 30s. Prominent Republicans such as John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell called on Moore to drop out of the race. President Trump, however, endorsed Moore and accepted his denial of the accusations.

The Birmingham News editorial board describes Jones as a “moderate Democrat.”

“If you look at the positions I’ve got on health care, if you look at the positions I got on jobs, you should look at the support I have from the business community, I think I’m pretty mainstream,” Jones told Fox News’ Peter Doocy in 2017. “I want to reach across the aisle.”

In March 2019, Jones was one of three Democrats to vote “no” with all Senate Republicans on the Green New Deal. He was one of five Democrats to vote for the Republican budget deal in January 2018, but opposes tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.

In an interview with the New York Times, he said he hopes to emulate the record of the state’s senior Republican senator Richard Shelby in representing Alabama.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Jones has voted with Trump about 35.4 percent of the time.

Tommy Tuberville

Tuberville is a longtime college football coach who has never held elected office. In August 2018, Tuberville — who coached at Auburn — moved from Florida to Alabama with the intent of running for Senate in 2020.

Tuberville has closely aligned himself with the president, who endorsed him over his former attorney general after Sessions angered Trump by recusing himself during the Mueller investigation. Trump endorsements have proved successful in most Republican primaries since 2017.

Trump has gone above and beyond for Tuberville in hits against his opponent, in May tweeting: “3 years ago, after Jeff Sessions recused himself, the Fraudulent Mueller Scam began. Alabama, do not trust Jeff Sessions. He let our Country down.”

Tuberville sought to exploit the Republican divide, declaring that Sessions “threw Trump to the wolves.”

“When faced with supporting POTUS or running scared, Jeff Sessions chose the easy way out and recused himself. I won’t ever run from a fight in the U.S. Senate,” Tuberville said.

Tuberville opposes abortion, wants to repeal ObamaCare and, like Sessions, has a hard-line stance on immigration, supporting the president’s plans to build a border wall. His opponent Jones has said a border wall would be too costly.

Race overview

Tuberville ran an under-the-radar primary race, rarely holding public events or agreeing to interviews.

Tuberville plans to keep a Trump-centric focus for his race, campaign officials tell the New York Times. His campaign will continue to remind voters of Jones’ vote against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and his vote against the president in the impeachment trial.

That said, Jones has noted that he believes Alabama voters will appreciate his independence from the president.

“I have the luxury of telling people in Alabama, ‘Look, I’m going to be for President Trump on issues that are good for Alabama, and I’ve done that,’” Jones said. “But on the other hand, I’m going to speak out when he’s doing things that are not good for Alabama.”

Jones has pushed for Tuberville to agree to debate him, saying voters deserve a debate, but Tuberville has yet to commit to accepting the invitation.

“We’ll sort through the invitations and then we’ll decide,” Tuberville said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, before suggesting that party labels and loyalty tell voters all they need to know.

“The difference is, he takes his marching orders from the Democratic side … and I stand with President Trump. So, you know, if you think about it, that pretty much tells most of the people in Alabama, all the voters, what they need to know,” Tuberville said.

Jones said in a separate interview that voters deserve a debate.

“Look, he didn’t debate Jeff Sessions and so I’m confident he’s going to be too afraid to debate me, because I do have a record that he can’t just slap a label on when he’s on the debate stage,” Jones said.

Who has the edge? 

Jones is considered by some observers to be the most vulnerable incumbent senator this cycle.

Cook Political Report has rated the Alabama Senate race as “lean R” and Sabato’s Crystal Ball has rated Alabama as “likely R.”

Jones has the edge of being the incumbent, but he won his race under unique circumstances– just weeks before many in his opponent’s party had called him to drop out.


A recent FiveThirtyEight poll found 40 percent of voters in favor of Jones and 50 percent for Tuberville.