MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Doug Jones has largely distanced himself from national Democrats in his campaign for Senate in deep-red Alabama. But three days out from Election Day, he’s brought in some national figures to boost turnout from a key voting bloc — African-American voters.
“I’m here to try and help some folk get woke!” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker told a crowd of roughly 200 at a rally in Montgomery at Alabama State University.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” Booker, who is often referred to as a potential future presidential candidate, reminded the crowd.
Aside from Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who campaigned for Jones in October, the Jones campaign has not called in national Democratic figures to help his campaign after the former U.S. Attorney won the primary.
That could help Jones avoid alienating members of a coalition that he needs to win — which includes Republicans who do not support the GOP nominee, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.
But Jones also needs to turn out African-American voters, who make up nearly a quarter of registered voters in Alabama and typically support Democrats.
Jones — who prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four young girls — has visited African-American churches throughout his campaign. And he has reached out to black voters through targeted mailers and ads.
He was once again at a black church on Saturday, even though snow and ice closed highways early Saturday morning.
Jones addressed the congregation at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma Saturday afternoon, along with Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, a Selma native, and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
This church has a special place in civil rights history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke often here. And it’s where marchers began their trek to Montgomery in 1965, only to be met with violence six blocks away at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who led that march and was beaten by state troopers at the bridge, is expected to join Jones on the campaign trail Sunday.
But Jones said his push was not just aimed at the key voting bloc.
“This is not just a question about African-American voters. This election is about everybody in the state,” Jones said. “So while we are reaching out to the African-American community in Selma, and elsewhere, we’re reaching out with the same messages to everyone else.”
Jones also dismissed a question about whether bringing Democratic leaders from out of state could turn off other voters.
“The people that are going to be coming here today have issues that we have in common with the people of Alabama,” Jones said. “I don’t think you can say that with some of the people that are coming in on the other side.”
Jones’ comment appeared to be a veiled reference to the Moore campaign. Moore will host former White House adviser Steve Bannon and Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert at a Monday “Drain the Swamp” rally on the eve of the election.
Jones pointed to Patrick’s work on civil rights as a reason he was with the campaign Saturday. And he highlighted Booker’s familial roots in Alabama when introducing the New Jersey Democrat.
“I’m looking at my family tree before I came down to Alabama, and we might be related,” Booker joked with Jones.
A little about Moore
Booker did reference Moore when he addressed the crowd. He criticized Moore, who was twice removed from the state Supreme Court for violating federal orders. Booker and Jones also pointed out Republicans have been critical of Moore, and said Jones is best positioned to work with both parties.
They did not spend much time on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore. Nine women have come forward alleging misconduct, including sexual assault, mainly when they were teenagers and Moore was in his thirties.
Watch: In Alabama Race, Jones Has Funding, Moore Has Trump, Bannon Support
Jones declined to weigh in about a development Friday where one of Moore’s accusers said she had written notes around a yearbook she signed. The Moore campaign said that admission meant the accuser was not telling the truth.
“Look I’m not dealing with those accusations. That’s his issue, not mine,” Jones said. “So I’ll let them deal with that. What I’m talking about with these folks in here, that never came up. We talked about jobs. We talked about education. We talked about the economy”.
“We’re going to continue to do that right up until the polls close on December the 12th,” Jones said.
Juanda Maxwell, 69 of Selma, is a member of Brown Chapel and was inside when Jones, Patrick and Sewell addressed the congregation. The event was closed to the press. She estimated 100 people attended.
Maxwell said their central message was to talk about reasons to vote.
“Be positive and give your people something to vote for and not against,” Maxwell said, as water from melting snow dripped from the tree above. “Because if you don’t give them something to vote for they may not get out of this weather. We’re not used to this cold.”