By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones has raised about $1.3 million, his campaign said, amounting to a drastic jump in his campaign fundraising, which struggled in the first months of the race.
Through July 31, during the primary in the first three months of the campaign, Jones’ campaign raised less than $300,000. At the end of the third quarter, Jones’ campaign now has more than $1 million in cash on hand, his campaign said.
“These fundraising numbers are the latest proof that our campaign is continuing to gain incredible momentum with grassroots support from throughout the state of Alabama,” said Sebastian Kitchen, Jones’ spokesman. “Alabamians know that Doug cares about kitchen table issues that are important to them and know he will stand up for hardworking families in the Senate.”
The Alabama Political Reporter has not independently verified the vote totals. Quarterly reports were due Oct. 15 but have not been posted to the FEC’s campaign finance recording system.
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore, Jones’ Republican challenger, whose campaign reports have not posted yet, either, last reported raising a total of $1.1 million with $285,407 in cash on hand through September 6, according to the FEC reporting system. Moore’s fundraising totals will jump, as well, when his finance reports are posted. It remains unclear by how much.
Jones, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted two members of the Ku Klux Klan involved in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, entered the race in May and sailed to a clean victory in the August special primary.
Since then, his campaign has been focused on fundraising and momentum building, hosting former Vice President Joe Biden in Birmingham earlier this month and garnering the support of former vice presidential candidate and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who has pushed the national party toward more strongly supporting Jones.
Though neither the Democratic National Committee nor the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have gotten involved in the campaign by spending money to back Jones as of yet, both have been working on his behalf, soliciting donations to his campaign.
Jones’ campaign said in a statement that more than 22,000 people have donated so far, and more than 3,500 have signed up to volunteer, as the race moves closer to the December 12 special election. In the most recent campaign finance reports available, most of the donations were from Alabama.
With the general election less than 60 days away, polls show the race tighter than most would expect in a statewide race in Alabama with Moore holding a slight, 8 percentage point lead over Jones in a survey by the Alabama-based Cygnal research firm. The poll had a 4.4 percentage point margin of error.
The lead is similar to that which Moore had over Sen. Luther Strange in last month’s special primary runoff. Moore won that race to determine who would be the Republican nominee to replace now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions by nearly 10 percentage points.
But that single-digit lead is more than uncomfortable for Republicans who know Moore has near-universal name recognition in the Yellowhammer State. Jones, on the other hand, has work to do to reach nearly a fifth of the state’s voters who said they have never heard of him. Another 10 percent say they are unsure whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion. Only three percent said they had never heard of Moore.
In a state that hasn’t seen a Democrat compete, much less win, in a statewide general election since former Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley won re-election to the Public Service Commission presidency in 2008, Jones’ performance so far is a glimmer of hope.
On the Republican side, pro-business, establishment and grassroots groups have splintered on whether to support Moore, a controversial jurist whose name evokes disdain from some who see him as a right-wing opportunist and others who see him as principled conservative stalwart.
While Jones so far seems to have at least timid support from the national Democrats, Moore has struggled to make friends in Washington. The Senate Leadership Fund — a PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders in the Senate — has said it has no plans to wade into the race.
The PAC, which spent $8-9 million in the primary supporting Strange, is not spending money in the race. Moore, who was the victim of millions spent by the SLF on attack ads, likely wouldn’t want their support anyway.
Closer to home, business interests aren’t excited about Moore’s candidacy, either. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which typically backs Republican candidates and spent thousands on the race for Strange, has said it is backing out of the race, too, according to a report by AL.com.
Other pro-business groups have done the same, leaving Moore to rely largely on grassroots and tea-party groups for support — along with populist leaders like former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and staunch conservatives like Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee.
At home, though, Moore has had no trouble gathering the endorsements of Republicans like Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, who ran against Moore and Strange in the primary. More than a dozen members of the Alabama Legislature have also lent their support to Moore.
But Jones said Wednesday that he sees the reluctance of pro-business groups to get involved as a sign.
“I agree with these pro-business organizations that Roy Moore is bad for business in Alabama and when you’re bad for business it’s also bad for the working men and women in the state,” Jones said. “I look forward to working with businesses groups and all Alabamians looking to create jobs and further economic development in our state.”