Sen. Chris Van Hollen believes Democrats will invest in their candidate in the Alabama special election to fill the remaining term of former Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump’s attorney general.
And as the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which will fight to retain current and capture new Senate seats in 2018, Van Hollen’s word carries considerable weight.
No one in his party “is kidding themselves how tough politically Alabama has been” for Democrats, Van Hollen, the freshman senator from Maryland who previously served seven terms in the House, told ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast Wednesday.
“We all know it’s Alabama. That’s been tough territory for Democrats. … On the other hand, we have a terrific candidate.”
Victory is a long shot for Democratic candidate Doug Jones, the U.S. attorney who gained acclaim for successfully prosecuting two suspects in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four young girls. Jones secured his party’s nomination by nearly a 50-point margin over his closest opponent in the August primary.
An Alabama Democrat hasn’t served in the Senate for 20 years. And President Trump carried the state by 28 points last November.
If former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore beats incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in the primary runoff on Tuesday, that “creates the potential for a Democratic upset,” Gonzales wrote in August.
Strange has the backing of the Republican establishment, including Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Moore has received an endorsement from Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and has an advantage in most public polls ahead of the vote.
The runoff between Strange and Moore has lit the fuse on a “full-blown Republican civil, political war” in the state, Van Hollen said.
“I think Doug Jones is going to energize a lot of voters to come out, and I’m not sure, after a bitter Republican primary, that’s going to be the case on the Republican side,” he continued, adding, “Republicans have just gone through months of beating the hell out of each other.”
The special election will be held Dec. 12.