• 52°

Selma voted for experience in mayoral contest – let’s hope it does the same in Senate race

While a lot of attention is being paid to this year’s presidential contest, which has shaped up to be one of the most contentious in history and comes at a time when the country is glaring over the edge of an immense canyon, unsure if it will fall to its grisly doom or step back into the arms of safety, perhaps the most important race on this year’s ballot – at least as far as Alabama is concerned – is the U.S. Senate battle between incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-AL, and his Republican opponent, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Let me be frank: Tuberville, taken on his own merits, is wholly unfit to represent the State of Alabama in the U.S. Senate, but when compared to Jones – an attorney who prosecuted Klansmen responsible for the despicable 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and who, in his only two years in office, has done more for the people of this state than his predecessor, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, accomplished in two decades – Tuberville’s candidacy seems tragically laughable.

Partisanship aside, Jones has proven during his brief stint in Washington to be a tireless advocate for the needs of average Alabamians, for whom voting rights and access to affordable healthcare are chief concerns.

Whereas Jones is a co-sponsor of the Voting Rights Extension Act, currently being held up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, in the Republican-led Senate, and an outspoken proponent of making it easier for more people to cast ballots, Tuberville could not answer even basic questions about the landmark civil rights legislation during a recent event.

The same could be said of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has afforded hundreds of thousands of Alabamians with healthcare coverage for the first time, and Medicaid expansion, which would extend coverage to thousands more Alabamians.

While Jones has consistently called for the ACA to be protected and Medicaid to be expanded in Alabama, Tuberville has joined Republicans in complaining that the healthcare bill is too expensive while offering no alternative plan to protect people with preexisting conditions, keep young people on their parents’ health plans, provide subsidies for those struggling to pay for coverage, make coverage comprehensible and affordable and more.

The biggest threat to humanity, climate change, is not even on Tuberville’s radar of issues – the candidate has previously denied the widely-accepted science on the issue and asserted that only God can control the climate, a frightening thought to be espoused by a man who wants to be elected as this state’s legislative problem-solver in Washington – while Jones has relentlessly blasted the current administration’s moves to roll back environmental protections.

For the first time in more than two decades, Alabama has a voice in the U.S. Senate that has been a tireless advocate for the needs of the mass of struggling people who make up the population of this state and a diligent champion unafraid to take a stance on important issues of the day.

For the first time in more than two decades, Alabama has a representative in the U.S. Senate whose legislative offerings reflect the needs of the people of this state, rather than simply cow-tailing to Republican leadership – during his time in office, Jones has championed bills aimed at providing justice to victims of violence during the Civil Rights Movement, has pushed for protections for military families, teachers, healthcare workers, children and more.

Again, this should not be an issue of partisanship – also during his short tenure, Jones has been awarded multiple times for his record of bipartisanship, with many of his bills even garnering Republican co-sponsors and, where transparency is concerned, he is the only lawmaker representing Alabama, in the House or the Senate, who holds regular briefings with members of the Alabama press, during which he speaks candidly about the issues facing the state and his work toward addressing those issues.

It’s difficult to comprehend why any voter would believe that Tommy Tuberville – who has no experience relevant to the work of a United States Senator; who is widely known to have engaged in questionable business practices that led to his firm, TS Capital, being hit with a $7.3 million penalty and forced him to reach undisclosed settlements with victims who were made to sign nondisclosure agreements; who according to the New York Times set up a charitable organization to benefit veterans and used less than one-third of proceeds for veterans causes; who is known to have associated with multiple people later convicted of financial fraud in apparent Ponzi schemes; who shouted “Go to Hell!” at college students – is preferable to a tried-and-true legislator and lifelong defender of civil rights and liberties, not to mention a native of the state (Tuberville moved to Alabama in August 2018, though he voted in that year’s general election in Florida), but the predictable unorthodoxy of Alabama voters certainly portends that they will.

But they will do so at the peril of their friends and neighbors, who only stand to see their hard-fought rights rolled back in Tuberville’s hands.

“I’m sure that there are some things over the last two-and-a-half years that the folks down there might have disagreed with, but overall I think I’ve been a voice for the Black Belt in the U.S. Senate,” Jones said during our discussion Friday. “For not just healthcare and jobs, which are important, but I think I provided that voice from the South, the Deep South, to speak out against the racial inequities we see in our country, to help to put healthcare, housing, jobs and the economy on a more equal playing field for folks. While all lives matter, we’ve got to recognize that black lives matter – they won’t have that voice in Tommy Tuberville, they won’t have that voice from the Deep South if I’m not there. I hope people realize that the Senate isn’t always about passing legislation, sometimes it’s about using it as a bully pulpit to do what’s right. I’ve just tried to do right by the folks who live down there.”

There is no such thing as a perfect politician – we are a vast and diverse population with radically-diverging views on any number of topics, including the pros and cons of elected officials and their actions – but Doug Jones has represented the people of this state brilliantly and with integrity and has served admirably over the last two years and there is no doubt that he will continue to do so if given the chance.