Republicans for Jones wage lonely fight against Moore (Politico)

Republicans for Jones wage lonely fight against Moore

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Alabama Democratic senate nominee Doug Jones’ campaign finance reports are dotted with longtime donors to Alabama Republicans. | Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Republicans for Jones wage lonely fight against Moore

Even Republicans who can barely stomach Roy Moore are having a hard time pulling the lever for a Democrat.

A small group of Alabama Republicans have joined forces with Democrat Doug Jones’ campaign ahead of Tuesday’s special Senate election. But they are having trouble swaying many friends and family members to cross the aisle, too.

Democrat Doug Jones’ campaign finance reports are dotted with longtime donors to Alabama Republicans like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Sen. Richard Shelby and former Rep. Spencer Bachus. Republican attorneys in Birmingham and Mobile who have disliked Moore since he was a judge have banded together to offer support to Jones. The Republicans for Jones include Gina Dearborn, an Alabama lobbyist and former Shelby staffer who has backed Jones on social media and is married to White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn. (Dearborn did not respond to requests for comment.)

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Yet Moore has remained in the lead in most polls of the special election because of continued support from the vast majority of Republicans, according to surveys from the Washington Post and other outlets. Jones needs votes from at least 1 in 10 Republicans if he is to win, according to Alabama-based Democratic pollster Zac McCrary. But most GOP voters do not believe the allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct against Moore, and many are simply unwilling to cast a vote for a Democrat.

“I think there’ll be a fair number of people that will just hold their nose and vote for a Republican candidate in the end,” said Blake Goodsell, an attorney and past Alabama Republican Party donor who gave $1,000 to Jones.

“I’ve got a lot of friends who are party loyalists, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but they’re also having a really hard time on this one,” said Harlan Winn, an attorney backing Jones who describes himself as a moderate.

Some may not vote at all, which would be little help to Jones given Moore’s strident, sizable base of support.

“If you go across the state of Alabama, there’s probably 30 percent who really like Roy Moore. There’s about 70 percent who don’t like him at all,” said David Boyett, an attorney who describes himself as a Republican aligned with Sen. John McCain but has fixed a Jones campaign sticker on his car. “But the question is how much of that 70 percent is actually going to get out. We know the 30 percent is going to get out there.”

Goodsell and others are still trying to rally support for Jones, though not without partisan pushback. Kali McNutt, a Birmingham-based entrepreneur who previously worked at the conservative Foreign Policy Initiative, has posted against Moore on Facebook — drawing a heated rebuke from her best friend’s mother, among others.

Goodsell has found more success among fellow lawyers, some of whom have been watching Moore warily for years in state and local courts.

“Before any of the recent scandal came up I think Roy Moore was not particularly well regarded in the state bar,” Goodsell said. “I’m a lawyer and I don’t really have much respect for other lawyers that don’t seem to respect the rule of law. I think that’s probably a very prevalent opinion among his peers in the state.”

McNutt noted that there hasn’t been an official effort by the Jones campaign to organize Republican defectors from Moore, describing anti-Moore Republicans in Alabama as a more diffuse group.

“I don’t know of a really organized effort of Republicans for Doug Jones,” McNutt said. She added: “The only way that Roy Moore will be defeated at this point will be if everybody is talking about it in person to other people and giving rational, real reasons to vote for Doug Jones and against Roy Moore.”

Indeed, Jones’ campaign has bombarded voters’ TVs and mailboxes with implicit arguments for Republicans to cross over. Recent TV ads pledge not to embarrass Alabamians or feature Republican voters saying they play to cast ballots for the Democrat. Moore’s campaign has noted his conservatism in response and attempted to link Jones to national liberal figures.

“I certainly wouldn’t label myself as a Democrat now but I’m certainly voting for the best candidate in the upcoming election and he happens to be a Democrat,” said Ferrell Anders, an attorney and one-time aide to former Rep. Jack Edwards (R-Ala.). Anders has donated to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ex-Rep. Jo Bonner’s campaigns in the past, but he found himself at a Jones fundraiser in Daphne, Ala. this year.

“There were a lot of lawyers that came from Mobile this year … and there was a lot of discussion about how they had voted Republican before but they weren’t going to support Roy Moore,” Anders said.

Boyett shrugged when asked how he expected the race to turn out.

“I think it’s going to be close. The turnout is going to be key,” Boyett said. “If you held a gun to my head I’d say Moore’s probably going to win, but it’s probably going to be closer than any recent general election in Alabama for any kind of state office.”

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December 9, 2017 at 12:48PM

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