Republican Tommy Tuberville defeated Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama on Tuesday — marking the only GOP flip of a Democratic-held Senate seat in the general election, Fox News projected.
Tuberville’s victory meant Republicans would regain a seat they lost in the reliably red state in 2017, when Jones pulled off a special election victory in the Trump stronghold.
Jones, who was Alabama’s first Democratic U.S. senator in more than two decades, was considered a long shot against Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach endorsed by President Trump.
A repeat win for Jones would have suggested that Democrats could make inroads in the Deep South. Instead, his defeat gave creedence to the view that Jones’ 2017 win was a fluke driven by the troubled candidacy of then-GOP nominee Roy Moore, who faced a litany of sexual misconduct allegations.
Tuberville, who positioned himself as a political outsider, had harnessed Trump’s endorsement to block former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ bid to reclaim a seat that he held before accepting an appointment from Trump — with whom Sessions later had a falling out over his recusal from the Russia investigation.
“I’m going to stand with President Trump to finish the border wall, cut your taxes, and protect life,” Tuberville told voters. During the campaign, he framed Jones as a “devoted liberal who embraces the D.C. swamp.”
After Tuberville defeated Sessions in a Republican primary runoff, Trump tweeted: “Tuberville WON big against Jeff Sessions. Will be a GREAT Senator for the incredible people of Alabama.”
Trump also derided Jones as “a terrible Senator” and a “Super Liberal puppet for Schumer & Pelosi.”
While Jones held a 4-to-1 spending advantage, Tuberville largely avoided campaigning, making only a few public appearances, and refused to debate Jones.
When asked during the campaign what issues drove him in the general election, Tuberville said there was a need to bring back jobs.
“We’ve sold our country out to China and foreign countries,” Tuberville said. “We’ve sent everything out. We don’t have the small manufacturing jobs in this country, in the small communities.”
“We got to get those back,” he continued. “We got to give our kids an opportunity to look in a direction of a job and a successful career and raise a family other than look around going what am I going to do? Am I going to get on welfare or am I going to work hard to make ends meet in terms of getting that job and work your way up?”
Republican campaign strategist Angi Stalnaker said Tuberville came in with an “incredible advantage” just by having an “R” next to his name. She noted that Jones lost even more credibility with Alabamians with his vote in February to remove Trump from office after the president’s impeachment by the House.
“I think Senator Jones has been on the ropes since the day he was sworn in, but when he cast a vote to impeach Trump. … I think he put his nail in his own coffin,” Stalnaker said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.