HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Supporters and voters who attended a rally, hosted by the University of Alabama-Huntsville College Democrats, heard directly from Doug Jones Thursday evening.
The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate spoke at the Charger Union on the UAH campus.
Dakota Layton, the president of the UAH College Democrats, urged people beforehand to come hear him out.
“I think that if you’re politically interested, and if you’re interested in both sides, and not just your party, you should come out and see what he’s all about. I think that a lot of the race has turned away from issues and more into partisan hacking: ‘I’m going to attack him because he’s not part of my party.’ I think that you should come out and see what he’s all about.”
Those who did attend heard from an energized Jones about what he believes. He spoke about his past as a U.S. Attorney, and about his stance on “kitchen-table issues.”
— Kristen Conner (@KConnerTweets) November 30, 2017
Overall, it was not a speech unfamiliar to those who have heard Jones speak before. He said that’s on purpose.
“My outreach to the African-American community is the same as my outreach to the business and Chamber of Commerce folks that we have met here in Huntsville and the defense industry. My outreach is the same in Mobile as it is up here. It’s the same message about the issues that the people of this state have in common,” he stated during an interview.
Jones did add several comments tailored to students who may have been in the audience, though. He talked about public education affordability, which resonated with sophomore, Reid Goram.
“I myself need a Pell grant. I’ve been given one,” he explained. “I don’t want other people who are in the same position as I am, who can’t afford to outright pay for school, to not be able to get a Pell grant to come to school.”
Goram said he came to the rally to learn more about Jones, to whom he had been leaning in this U.S. Senate race. But he left with a decision made: to vote for Jones.
“This has cemented the vote,” he said. “I got to hear more about his policies, his ideas, see his passion for it. Definitely know that he’s not someone who is here for a Senate job. Very comforting to hear someone who wants to discuss both sides of politics, not just fight for one side, and who wants to push forward issues,” said Goram.
Jones also talked military and defense during the rally, denying recent claims that he is weak on those issues.
“For some reason, and there’s no idea where this has come from, but all of a sudden they say ‘Doug is weak on defense.’ But Doug is not weak on defense. Doug knows the importance of a strong military, not only to Huntsville… to the state of Alabama,” he said. “I know how important military is to the economy of Alabama. But more important that that, I have a family. I have children. I have granddaughters. And I want to protect them. I will tell you– I d*** sure am not going to weaken the military and put my family and your family in jeopardy,” he said.
Jones talked about his desire to extend Medicaid and provide more funding for rural hospitals.
But he also sought to contrast himself from his opponent, Roy Moore (R), at one point stating to audience applause that Moore rarely discusses the issues. He called a Moore win, “a leap backward.”
Jones again delved into the situation surrounding Moore, with accusations of unwanted sexual contact and flirtation with underage girls when Moore was in his 30’s.
“Let me be perfectly clear about this. The one thing I want you to remember– those allegations did not just involve a 32-year-old man and teenage girls. They involved an assistant district attorney. A man of power, and a young girl,” said Jones. “Now, folks, I’ve been practicing law a long time. I believe those women.”
He added, “We can not, for Alabama’s sake, put somebody like that in the United States Senate to be the face of Alabama. We have a choice, folks.”
Jones urged those in attendance to hit the polls on December 12.
Later, he appeared at a phone bank at his own headquarters in Huntsville to thank the volunteers placing calls on his behalf Thursday.
— Kristen Conner (@KConnerTweets) December 1, 2017
After a brief speech thanking them, he spoke to media.
Jones holds fast to his earlier decision not to follow polls, some of which are again putting Moore ahead of him just days before the election.
“Let’s do this one time. And y’all can just use this for the future, every time,” he said to a reporter. “I say the same thing about polls. I’ve been consistent about polls. I don’t pay attention to them,” he reassured. “I am working. I feel an energy out there. We feel very, very good about where we are in this campaign.”
Jones added, “We’ll wait. We’ll see what happens on December 12, and I feel very good about where we are.”
Jones, say many, must appeal to black voters to pull off a win.
When asked how he is energizing that population, he said, “We’re doing all that we– I feel very comfortable where we are.”
But he expressed a frustration about that question.
“I keep getting asked that question,” he said. “People need to understand that this campaign is not just about a segment of the voters. This campaign is about every Alabama voter. Our messages are the same.”
Jones did not choose to comment on a recent Twitter feud between Moore and Jimmy Kimmel.
But he did state that he wants people to listen to what he is saying: “You don’t have to compromise your principles, but you can have civility in the discourse. We don’t have enough of that.”
Again attacking Moore, he said, “You look at the hate-filled rhetoric that Roy Moore comes out against every segment of this community that he’s not ok with, that’s what we’re getting beyond.” He continued, “My whole career has been about equality and justice. I think that message when you go down to it, they’re going to look at that.”