U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones (D), far left, on the campaign trail. Photo: Doug Jones

Democrat Doug Jones claims win in Senate race roiled by sexual misconduct scandal

Democrat Doug Jones claimed victory in a closely-watched Senate race in Alabama but Republican Roy Moore has not officially conceded after a campaign in which he was repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct.

According to the unofficial results, Jones won 49.92 percent of the vote in a special election on Tuesday. Moore secured 48.38 percent, with only about 20,000 votes separating the candidates.

"We have come so far and the people of Alabama have spoken," Jones, a former federal prosecutor, said in his victory speech later in the evening.

Despite the tight margin, the race was not within the 0.5 margin that would trigger an automatic recount. Yet Moore said he wanted to "let the process play out," according to a transcript of a post-election speech posted by CNN, and he could finance a recount on his own, according to news reports.

Moore had been endorsed by President Donald Trump, who has faced sexual misconduct allegations of his own. But that was not enough to propel him to victory following an investigation by The Washington Post which found that he repeatedly made sexual overtures toward younger women -- most of them high school age -- when he was in his 30s.

"The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!" Trump wrote in a post on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

During the primary, Trump had indeed supported Republican Luther Strange, a former attorney general of the state who repeatedly clashed with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians on land-into-trust issues before he finally dropped his efforts following a court loss.

Moore, a former chief justice of Alabama's Supreme Court, doesn't have such a great record on Indian issues either. In a 2014 case involving the tribe, he issued an unusual opinion in which he explained his views on sovereign immunity.

"The doctrine of tribal immunity, intended in part to shield Indian tribes from exploitation by outsiders, is not also a sword tribes may wield to victimize outsiders," Moore wrote in the 18-page opinion.

The "special concurrence" was brought up in a more recent dispute involving the tribe. The Alabama Supreme Court, in two out of three cases, ruled that the tribe could not invoke sovereign immunity against clams made by "outsiders."

Indian issues, however, were never brought up during the campaign, which was roiled by the sexual misconduct allegations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Native Americans represent just 0.7 percent of the state population.

There are a handful of counties, mainly near Poarch Band headquarters in the southwestern part of the state, with larger Native populations. Most of those counties, including Escambia and Washington, supported Moore by large margins, according to results posted by The New York Times.

Even the county with the largest Native population in the state -- Lawrence -- went for Moore by a large margin. Lawrence is in the northern part of Alabama.

The victory by Jones, who will be sworn into office in the coming weeks, shifts the balance of power in the Senate. Republicans control 51 seats; Democrats 49.

The Alabama seat was vacated when Trump nominated Jeff Sessions as his Attorney General. Sessions opposed tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians when he was in the Senate.

Read More on the Story:
Doug Jones elected Alabama Senator; Roy Moore won't concede: What we know today (AL.Com December 13, 2017)
Recount in Alabama Senate race unlikely to help Roy Moore win, Merrill says (AL.Com December 13, 2017)
As Democrats add Senate seat, GOP left to bicker over what happened in Alabama (The Washington Post December 13, 2017)
Alabama earthquake: Democrat Jones wins (POLITICO December 12, 2017)
Once a Long Shot, Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race (The New York Times December 12, 2017)

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