BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Standing before cheering supporters in the deeply red state of Alabama, former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Alabama voters to send Democrat Doug Jones to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate.
Biden said while a win by Jones in the GOP stronghold would reverberate across the country, he said Alabama voters should elect Jones "for Alabama."
"Doug has demonstrated his courage and his absolute integrity," Biden told a cheering crowd of 1,100 in Birmingham. "Doug knows Alabama. He knows your heart and he'll never let you down."
Jones in the Dec. 12 election faces Republican Roy Moore who last week pulled off an upset over a better funded incumbent backed by President Donald Trump. Jones, a lawyer and former U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, is best known for prosecuting the Klansmen who bombed a Birmingham church in 1963, killing four black girls.
Biden said Jones demonstrated his courage in taking on that case 40 years later and sending the message to the Klan that "justice would follow them to the gates of hell if need be."
It's been two decades since a Democrat represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate. Democrats see a glimmer of hope in the off-year election against Moore, who while popular among evangelical voters, is a polarizing figure among other segments of the Alabama electorate. A judicial discipline panel twice removed Moore from chief justice duties for flouting federal court orders regarding gay marriage and the display of the Ten Commandments on state property.
"Although, when he wins this race, it will send ripples across this country, I want to be clear, I want to be clear, don't do it for that reason. Do it for Alabama. Do it for Alabama," Biden said of Jones.
Jones is emphasizing economic issues in the race and referenced the church bombing prosecution, saying it, like his campaign, was initially viewed as a "long shot" but was on the "right side of history."
"We are on the right side of justice. We are on the right side of respect and fairness, and I can tell you Roy Moore is not on the right side of any of those issues," Jones told a cheering crowd.
Biden did not mention Moore's name, but said the country didn't need an "extremist up in the United States Senate."
Delaina and Bettye Greene, a mother and daughter, wore shirts with a raven and the slogan "nevermoore" to the rally with Jones
"Why would we want Roy Moore? Somebody who has been removed not once, but twice for failing to follow the law," Delaina Greene said.
While the enthusiasm for Jones inside the convention room was high, the math is daunting. The last Democratic senator from Alabama was Howell Heflin, who retired in 1997, with Sessions succeeding him. Sessions and Sen. Richard Shelby have coasted in every Senate election since.
National Democratic Party forces, coming off this year's high-profile loss in neighboring Georgia's 6th Congressional District, are taking a cautious approach to the race in the Republican stronghold.
Biden's appearance with Jones was motivated by a longstanding friendship. He recorded automated phone messages urging people to vote for Jones in the crowded August primary and appeared at a Tuesday morning fundraiser with him.
Before the rally with Biden, the Moore campaign sent out a statement saying Jones' appearance with Biden shows a "clear contrast" in the race.
"Doug Jones has been trying to fool Alabama voters into thinking that he is really one of them, but he has shown his true colors by bringing in President Obama's Vice President to campaign for him and raise money for his campaign," Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead said.