Former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones handily won the Democratic primary in the Alabama special election Senate race Tuesday night, while the Republican primary is heading into a runoff.
Jones, who successfully prosecuted two suspects in the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church, won the primary outright. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, he led a seven-candidate field with 66 percent of the vote, The Associated Press reported.
While Republicans head into a Sept. 26 primary runoff, Jones can turn his attention to the general election. But he faces an uphill climb in the Yellowhammer State. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.
On the GOP, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and appointed Sen. Luther Strange were the top two finishers. With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Moore led Strange, 39 percent to 33 percent, with Rep. Mo Brooks in third place with 20 percent.
Democrats haven’t won a Senate race in Alabama since 1992 when Sen. Richard C. Shelby won a second term. He switched to the GOP two years later.
But Jones could benefit from name recognition in the state. He gained prominence as the former U.S. attorney who helped convict two of the remaining perpetrators of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
Jones also nabbed endorsements from prominent Democrats including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and civil rights icon Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis. The only Democrat in Alabama’s congressional delegation, Rep. Terri A. Sewell, also endorsed Jones.Heading into the Tuesday election, Democrats were facing the possibility of a runoff. Navy veteran Robert Kennedy Jr., the so-called mystery candidate, had done well in recent polling. He acknowledged in an interview with the Montgomery Adviser last week that his recognizable last name helped boost his support, though the businessman is not related to the famed political family. On Tuesday, Kennedy finished in second place with 18 percent of the vote.