Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is by far the most endangered Senate Democrat on the ballot in November, but that won’t stop him from thumbing his nose one last time at his state’s overwhelmingly conservative electorate.
Mr. Jones, who slipped into the Senate in a bizarre 2017 special election against a Republican accused of being a sexual predator and possible pedophile, is no stranger to tweaking Alabama voters.
He opposed the 2018 confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom polls indicated most people in deep-red Alabama supported. He also defied voters early this year in voting to convict President Trump on the House-passed impeachment charges.
Now, just weeks before standing for reelection, Mr. Jones bucked Alabama voters again by announced he will oppose Mr. Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court, federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
It’s left Alabamans wondering if he wants to keep his Senate seat.
“I’ve wondered this myself,” said Christopher Kratzer, vice president of research and analysis with Cygnal, an Alabama-based polling company.
“I believe Sen. Jones is motivated primarily by his dislike of Trump as well as his partisan driven — and mistaken — view that Judge Barrett is fundamentally unqualified simply because the proceedings are happening right before the November election,” Mr. Kratzer said.
A more sensible approach, politically, would have been at least to signal an open mind or even express a willingness to meet with a candidate, before voting against one, he said.
“So even though the politically savvy thing to do would be to meet with Judge Barrett — and confirm her — his commitment to the Democratic Party is preventing that,” he said. “At the end of the day, he wants a revisionist judge, not a constitutional judge.”
The Jones campaign did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Mr. Jones won his seat in a 2017 special election to fill the seat left vacant when Sen. Jeff Sessions became Mr. Trump’s first attorney general. After former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore won the Republican primary, he was hit by decades-old charges of sexual misconduct, including inappropriate relationships with teenage girls. Mr. Moore denied wrongdoing.
Mr. Jones squeaked in with 49% of the vote, barely 1% point above Mr. Moore.
This time, Mr. Jones finds himself opposed by a political newcomer, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, who has positioned himself as an ally of Mr. Trump’s and, with the president’s endorsement, beat a comeback attempt by Mr. Sessions in the primary.
The Tuberville campaign disputed any notion that Mr. Jones has virtually conceded by yet again voting against a majority of his constituents, with one campaign official saying, “we think Jones is fighting as hard as he can.”
Alabama Republicans have been less reticent, depicting Mr. Jones as an unflinching ally of Senate Minority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and beholden to left-wing donors on the coasts.
“We are challenging Doug Jones to do something he rarely does — listen to the majority of Alabamians,” said state Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan. “Look, we understand he’s in a jam — with over 80% of his fundraising from out of state, mostly New York and California, he has to cash out with them.”
“Do your job, Senator Jones. Use your own words that you pride yourself on being fair. Meet with Judge Barrett on behalf of Alabama.”
Mr. Tuberville leads Mr. Jones by 10 points in the Real Clear Politics polling average, which rates the seat as “likely Republican.”