Polls suggest Alabama’s special election may be the closest US Senate race in the two decades that Republicans have dominated both of the state’s Senate seats.
Republicans claimed both seats for the first time in the modern party’s history with Jeff Sessions’ election in 1996, and have not ceded them since.
In December, Republican Roy Moore will face Democrat Doug Jones for the seat vacated by Sessions after he was confirmed attorney general.
Moore, a former chief justice of the state supreme court, defeated interim senator Luther Strange in a late-September Republican primary. Jones is a former US attorney in Alabama.
Polling since the Republican primary shows Jones trailing Moore by 6 to 11 percentage points in the special election to decide who holds Sessions’ vacated seat until the 2020 election.
An Opinion Savvy poll in late September commissioned by Decision Desk HQ showed Jones trailing Moore by about 6 points with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points.
A poll sponsored by the Alabama-based Raycom News Network had Jones 11 points behind while another by JMC Analytics showed Jones trailing 8 points. Both polls had margins of error between 2 to 4 points.
Even an 11-point loss by Jones would make the special election the closest Senate race since 1996, when Sessions beat Democrat Roger Bedford by 7 percentage points. The next closest was Sessions’ reelection when he defeated Democrat Susan D. Parker by roughly 19 points. Since then, no Democrat challenger has come closer than 27 points in races for either Senate seats.
A recent much-discussed Fox News poll put Jones neck-and-neck with Moore. The poll included far more respondents than are likely to vote, however, putting the results in question, AL.com reported. Yet the race remains unexpectedly close in a state Trump won by 28 percentage points in the general election.
No poll so far has Jones winning the seat, but the potential for a competitive race reflects a general Democratic resurgence ahead of the 2018 midterms.
Alabama elected its last Democratic senator, Richard Shelby, in 1992, but Shelby switched parties in 1994 and won as a Republican four years later. Alabama’s last Democratic presidential pick was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Southern Democrats began transitioning toward the Republican party following the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Moore also is ahead in fundraising: As of Sept. 30, Moore had raised $2.5 million to Jones’ $1.6 million.
Jones received about 55 percent of his funding from large individual contributions and about 42 percent from small contributions, while Moore’s funding includes about 59 percent from large individual contributions and about 40 percent from small donations ($200 or less).
Moore, a political outsider opposed by the mainstream GOP in the September primary, recently formed a new joint fundraising committee with Republican party committees, which is expected to bring an influx of new money, Politico reported.