Declaring victory in the Alabama Senate race, the Democratic candidate Doug Jones thanked his supporters at an ebullient election night party and called on Washington to listen to the message the voters of the state have sent.
Jones, a former federal prosecutor, said he was “overwhelmed” by the win, but that the vote was not about himself or his opponent Republican Roy Moore, but was a moment for national unity.
Just before 10pm local time, a seemingly flabbergasted Jones began his speech by saying: “I think that I have been waiting all my life and now I just don’t know what the hell to say.”
In a nod to the multiple allegations of sexual assault that have been levelled against Moore, but never addressing them explicitly in his speech, Jones said:
“This entire race has been about dignity and respect. This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of what zip code you live in, is going to get a fair shake.”
Jones, 63, thanked Alabama’s African American and Latino communities for their support, and said he was dedicated to “finding common ground”.
“I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than divides us,” Jones told supporters at his victory party in Birmingham. “We have shown the country the way that we can be.”
He went on to send a message to his future colleagues in Washington, urging them to “get things done for the people” by passing the Children’s Health Insurance Program before he was seated.
Jones, who noted that he and his wife were also celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, told the crowd that Alabama had stood at a crossroads on voting day. In the past, he said, “unfortunately, we have usually taken the wrong fork. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, you took the right road.”
Jones is a career prosecutor who grew up in the highly segregated deep South. He has long-standing ties to Alabama’s black community, after he convicted two members of the KKK for the 1963 Birmingham Church bombing that killed four black girls.
There was more work to do to build bridges, find common ground and reach across to those who did not vote for him, Jones added. But, he concluded, “Tonight is a night for rejoicing because as Dr King liked to quote, ‘The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice’. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, in this time, in this place, you have helped bend that moral arc a little closer towards justice, and not only was it bent more, not only was it bent truer, you bent it right through the heart of the great state of Alabama.”
This article was written by Bonnie Malkin and David Smith in Birmingham, Alabama, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 13th December 2017 04.54 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010