The Alabama Special Election on Dec. 12, in which Republican Roy Moore is racing against Democrat Doug Jones to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat, has come under a national spotlight after Moore was accused of pursuing teenage girls, some as young as 14, when he was in his thirties. Following these sexual misconduct allegations, several Republican Senators who endorsed Moore reneged their support, and Moore’s poll numbers started to slip, although they have recently been on the upswing. Moore’s bid is also complicated by the entry of Lee Busby, a retired marine colonel who decided to launch a write-in campaign just 15 days before Alabama voters head to the polls.
Jones’ campaign, on the other hand, has largely out-raised Moore ahead of the Alabama Special Election and has the full support of the Democratic Party’s establishment, including former Vice President Joe Biden. But even with the controversy surrounding Moore, Jones still has an uphill battle, largely because of his stance on issues like abortion and immigration. Alabama has not elected a Democratic Senator in over two decades, and voters in this red state may be hard pressed to pick one now, even if they don’t approve of the alternative.
The Alabama Special Election polls have been all over the map, too, making it hard to tell who has an edge going into Tuesday’s vote. Last week, it was a statistical dead heat, although nearly three quarters of likely Republican voters say the allegations against Moore are false. On Monday, a Fox News poll showed Jones with a ten point lead.
Whether you’re voting in Alabama Tuesday or are just curious to know more about where the Alabama Special Election candidates stand, here is a break down of Moore’s and Jones’ positions on issues like health care, crime and abortion.
As the days inch closer to the Alabama Special Election, both Republican leadership and Alabama voters seem to be coalescing around Moore, a former State Supreme Court Justice who has been removed from the bench twice. President Donald Trump openly endorsed him Dec. 4, and has recorded a robocall for Moore. The Republican National Committee, who had severed ties with him after the allegations emerged, announced it was reinstating financial support, although the National Republican Senatorial Committee has not followed suit. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had previously called on Moore to step aside, told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Dec. 3 that the decision should be left to Alabama voters.
Allegations aside, Moore’s positions on certain issues are frequently in line with that of other far-right politicians, as seen below.
Like President Trump, Moore is an advocate of border security, and supports building a wall with Mexico if there is no other option, according to his campaign website. “Open borders are a threat to our national security and to our economy,” Moore says on his website.
Moore has said that, as Senator of Alabama, he would oppose all amnesty legislation, including the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals Program, which has provided nearly 800,000 undocumented minors who came to the United States with protection from deportation and work permits. Trump announced he was phasing out DACA this past September, and the provision is likely to become a key sticking point in upcoming Congressional budget negotiations.
While crime is not explicitly a position listed on Moore’s website, he has made statements insinuating that cracking down on illegal immigration will reduce crime. After Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant, was found not guilty in the 2015 death of Kate Steinle, Moore, who called the ruling “a complete travesty of justice” said the only way to prevent these crimes was to enhance border security and halt illegal immigration. “Until Congress moves to crack down on sanctuary cities, illegal immigration, and border security, no American can be safe,” he said in a statement.
The New York Times reviewed 20 sexual misconduct cases from Moore’s tenure as an Alabama Supreme Court Justice, and found that he sided with the defendant 13 times, which the paper noted was a higher rate than nearly all of his colleagues.The Times also highlighted instances where Moore objected to lengthy sentencing, including life imprisonment.
Health Care and Reproductive Rights like Abortion
Moore, like many Republicans, wants an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which he has categorized on his website as “socialized medicine.” Instead, Moore proposes tax credits for businesses to provide their employees with health insurance and enabling insurers to sell plans across state lines.
Moore ardently opposes abortion and is an advocate for eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a position that his campaign has used as part of its defense against Moore’s accusers. “What I want to know is why the news media has no interest in reporting on Doug Jones’ support for murdering hundreds of thousands of innocent women every year before they are even born,” a representative for the Moore campaign told TIME as part of an email response when asking a question about these allegations.
Eight women in total have publicly accused Moore of sexual misconduct, that he pursued them romantically and/or tried to initiate sexual contact with them: Leigh Corfman, Debbie Wesson Gibson, Gloria Thacker Deason, Beverly Young Nelson, Tina Johnson, Kelly Harrison Thorp, Gena Richardson, and Becky Gray. The women allegedly ranged from ages 14 to 28 when the incidents happened; all except Gray and Johnson were teenagers.
Moore has denied all allegations against him as a media fabrication. “If you are a liberal and hate Judge Moore, apparently he groped you. If you are a conservative and love Judge Moore, you know these allegations are a political farce,” his campaign told TIME Nov. 18.
He has acknowledged recognizing the names of Debbie Wesson Gibson and Gloria Thacker Deason, but says he never pursued them romantically. “I know her, but I don’t remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity of Gibson. “If we did go out on dates, then we did. But I don’t remember that”
Moore’s campaign has also asked Nelson’s attorney, who has shown her client’s yearbook with Moore’s signature as partial proof of their contact, release that yearbook so the campaign it is actually Moore’s signature.
Jones, a former Alabama U.S. Attorney with a strong record of defending civil rights cases, is the Democratic Party’s best hope to both inch closer to a Senate majority and gain footing in a state long seen as a Republican stronghold. But Jones has maintained a relatively low profile as Moore assumes much of the national spotlight.
Here are Jones’ positions on some of the respective issues.
Jones is best known during his time as a U.S. attorney for prosecuting two Klu Klux Klan members responsible for the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., which killed four young African-American girls. In 1998, Jones indicted Eric Robert Rudolph—who was charged with bombing Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park in 1996—after a bomb detonated at an abortion clinic in Birmingham. Rudolph pleaded guilty in 2005.
“The image of a bombed building and body of a police officer will remain with me for the rest of my life,” Jones writes on his website of seeing the explosion at the clinic.
As Senator of Alabama, Jones says he would want work on sentencing reform for Alabama, and reducing racial disparities in prison sentencing.
Health Care and Abortion
Although Jones acknowledges the Affordable Care Act needs improvement, he is adamantly opposed to repealing the law, and says he would oppose any legislation that would result in higher costs, premiums, and lack of provision for recipients with preexisting conditions. However, in a September interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd, Jones said he was not necessarily amenable to the single-payer plan touted by Bernie Sanders that had the backing of over a dozen Democratic Senators. “I need to look at those numbers—that’s going to be an expensive proposition,” he said of the plan.
Jones does not mention abortion explicitly on his website, although he does say no women should be denied services because of her employer’s religious beliefs. In the September interview with Todd, Jones said that he would continue to ensure women have access to the necessary abortions and contraception, if they want one, and wouldn’t necessarily be in favor of a policy that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. “I’m not in favor of anything that is going to infringe on a women’s right and her freedom to choose,” he said.
However, in a Nov. 2 interview with AL.com, Jones reiterated that he supports “a woman’s freedom to choose to what happens to her own body,” but supports the current restrictions on late term abortions.
For the most part, Jones has largely avoided publicly commenting on Moore’s allegations. After the Washington Post broke the first allegations on Nov. 9, Jones’ campaign issued a short statement, claiming “Roy Moore needs to answer these serious charges.”
But late last month, Jones’ campaign released an ad showing photographs of seven of the women who had come forward with allegations against Moore. “They were girls when Roy Moore immorally pursued them,” the ad says. “Now they are women, witnesses to us all of this disturbing conduct. Will we make their abuser a U.S. Senator?”
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