Demo­crat po­si­tions self as mod­er­ate in ruby red Alabama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JAMES VARNEY

When Demo­cratic Sen. Doug Jones seeks re­elec­tion in Alabama next year, he could be run­ning against his own party as much as his Repub­li­can op­po­nent.

As the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates vie with one an­other in of­fer­ing ever more tax­payer fi­nanced ben­e­fits, Mr. Jones has tried to po­si­tion him­self as a mod­er­ate while he rep­re­sents a state that Pres­i­dent Trump won in 2016 with 62% of the vote in 2016.

Mr. Jones’ elec­toral chances haven’t shown signs of im­prove­ment since he took of­fice. Since his re­mark­able special elec­tion win in De­cem­ber 2017 to fin­ish the term of Repub­li­can Sen. Jeff Ses­sions, Mr. Jones has seen his par­ti­san col­leagues go down to crush­ing de­feats in races for Alabama gov­er­nor, lieu­tenant gov­er­nor and at­tor­ney gen­eral.

Nei­ther Mr. Jones’ cam­paign nor the Alabama Demo­cratic Party re­sponded to emails and phone calls seek­ing comment about how he will nav­i­gate this tricky path. But his op­po­nents said they will block out any sliver of day­light Mr. Jones tries to create be­tween him­self and the sharp left turn the Democrats have taken na­tion­ally.

“The real­ity is that’s his team and that’s who they run with,” said Terry Lathan, chair­woman of the Alabama GOP. “He can em­brace it or fight it, ei­ther way it’s trou­ble for him.”

Al­ready Mr. Jones has painted him­self into a corner, declar­ing last March he will sup­port who­ever the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee is for pres­i­dent.

“I’m not go­ing to run away from that,” he said at the time.

His Repub­li­can op­po­nents said Mr. Jones can­not run away from what de­fines his party.

“As the Demo­crat Party con­tin­ues to em­brace so­cial­ism, they are grow­ing more and more out of touch with the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in Alabama and across the coun­try,” Rep. Bradley Byrne, who tossed his hat into the 2020 Se­nate ring this year, told The Washington Times. “Ev­ery Demo­crat, in­clud­ing Doug Jones, is be­ing forced to em­brace the Green New Deal, ‘Medi­care-for-All,’ and open borders. And ev­ery one of those poli­cies are to­tally out of touch with what those of us in Alabama what to see ac­com­plished.”

Of the 12 Demo­cratic in­cum­bents seek­ing re­elec­tion next year, only Alabama is rated a “toss-up” by the Cook Re­port.

One in­di­ca­tion of how Mr. Jones will ap­proach the race can be gleaned from a com­par­i­son of his web­sites with those of a “safe” Demo­crat. The sharp dif­fer­ences are telling, and it would seem Mr. Jones in­tends to avoid talk­ing about the is­sues Mr. Byrne raised.

In Ore­gon, where Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Sen. Jeff Merkley is ex­pected to cruise to re­elec­tion in 2020, his cam­paign web­site boasts of his activist left-wing cre­den­tials, such as at­tend­ing the Net­roots Na­tion con­fer­ence in Philadelph­ia, and is re­plete with dire warn­ings about climate change, a call to abol­ish the Elec­toral Col­lege, and a flat dec­la­ra­tion that, “the pres­i­dent is a racist.”

Mr. Jones, on the other hand, does not men­tion Mr. Trump on ei­ther his own web­site or that of his cam­paign. In­stead, he high­lights 11 is­sues on his Se­nate web­site, in­clud­ing agricultur­e, trade, de­fense and ed­u­ca­tion, on which he strikes a mod­er­ate note.

When it comes to the en­vi­ron­ment, for in­stance, Mr. Jones offers no en­dorse­ment of a Green New Deal. In­stead, he gives vot­ers a care­fully worded state­ment that in­cludes, “it is im­por­tant to work with other na­tions to pro­mote busi­ness prac­tices that are en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly with­out bur­den­ing them with un­nec­es­sary and ex­pen­sive reg­u­la­tions.”

Sim­i­larly, on health care the words “Medi­care for All” are not to be found. Rather, Mr. Jones stakes a mid­dle-of-theroad po­si­tion where he ac­knowl­edges the expense and says, “I sup­port com­mon­sense solutions to re­duce those costs and ease those bur­dens.”

No spe­cific com­mon sense solutions are men­tioned.

As for Mr. Trump, Mr. Jones says he will back him when it is good for Alabama, op­pose him vo­cif­er­ously when it’s not. His vot­ing record shows that he has voted in line with Mr. Trump’s po­si­tion more than 50% of the time.

Even that is a strik­ingly high com­pared with most Demo­cratic sen­a­tors — pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rants Sens. Cory A. Booker, Bernard San­ders and El­iz­a­beth War­ren have all voted with Mr. Trump less than 15% of the time — but not as high as con­ser­va­tive Alabami­ans would like, ac­cord­ing to Repub­li­cans there.

“He’s talk­ing two dif­fer­ent lan­guages,” Ms. Lathan said, point­ing to the fact Mr. Jones does not in­clude im­mi­gra­tion as one of his fea­tured is­sues.

“It’s huge here,” she said. “That’s not an ac­ci­dent, that he’s not pri­or­i­tiz­ing his stance there. He doesn’t even have it listed. The ques­tion is why isn’t he talk­ing about it?”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama Demo­crat, won the special Se­nate elec­tion in 2017. His Repub­li­can op­po­nents say Mr. Jones can­not run away from what de­fines his party, es­pe­cially as it swings fur­ther to the left.

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