Doug Jones (politician)

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Doug Jones
Senator Doug Jones official photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Alabama
Assumed office
January 3, 2018
Serving with Richard Shelby
Preceded byLuther Strange
United States Attorney for the
Northern District of Alabama
In office
September 8, 1997 – January 20, 2001
PresidentBill Clinton
Preceded byClaude Harris Jr.
Succeeded byAlice Martin
Personal details
Born
Gordon Douglas Jones

(1954-05-04) May 4, 1954 (age 65)
Fairfield, Alabama, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Louise New (m. 1992)
Children3
EducationUniversity of Alabama (BS)
Samford University (JD)
Signature
WebsiteSenate website

Gordon Douglas Jones (born May 4, 1954) is an American attorney, former prosecutor and politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Alabama since 2018. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously was a United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama from 1997 to 2001.

Jones was born in Fairfield, Alabama, and is a graduate of the University of Alabama and Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. After graduating law school, he worked as a congressional staffer and then as a federal prosecutor before moving to private practice. In 1997, Jones was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama by President Bill Clinton. Jones' most prominent cases were the successful prosecution of two Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four African-American girls and the indictment of domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph. He returned to private practice at the conclusion of Clinton's term in 2001.

Jones announced his candidacy for United States Senate in the 2017 special election following the resignation of Republican incumbent Jeff Sessions to become U.S. Attorney General. After winning the Democratic primary in August, Jones faced his Republican opponent, former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. Jones was considered a longshot candidate in a deeply Republican state. A month prior to the special election, Moore was alleged to have sexually assaulted and otherwise acted inappropriately with several women, including some who were minors at the time.[1] Jones won the special election by 22,000 votes in a close race, 50%–48%.[2]

Jones is the first Democrat to win statewide office in Alabama since Lucy Baxley was elected President of the Alabama Public Service Commission in 2008. Democrats had not represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1997, when Howell Heflin left office. Richard Shelby had been elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1992 but switched to the Republican Party in 1994 following the Republican Revolution in which the party won a majority of seats in both chambers of Congress;[3] Shelby had been the last Democrat to win a statewide federal election in Alabama until Jones' victory.

Early life and education[edit]

Doug Jones was born in Fairfield, Alabama to Gordon and Gloria Jones.[4] His father worked at U.S. Steel and his mother was a homemaker.[5] Jones graduated from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science in 1976, and earned his Juris Doctor from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1979. He is a member of Beta Theta Pi.[6]

He began his career by working as staff counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for Democratic Senator Howell Heflin from Alabama.[7] Jones then worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1980 to 1984 before resigning to work at a private law firm in Birmingham, Alabama, from 1984 to 1997.[8]

U.S. Attorney[edit]

President Bill Clinton announced on August 18, 1997, his intent to appoint Jones as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama,[9] and formally nominated Jones to the post on September 2, 1997.[10] On September 8, 1997, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama appointed Jones as interim U.S. Attorney. The Senate confirmed Jones' nomination on November 8, 1997,[10] by voice vote.[11]

In January 1998, Eric Rudolph bombed the New Woman All Women Health Care Center in Birmingham. Jones became responsible for coordinating the state and federal task force in the aftermath, and advocated for Rudolph to be tried first in Birmingham before being extradited and tried in Georgia for his crimes in that state, such as the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.[12][13]

16th Street Baptist Church bombing case[edit]

Jones during the trial of Bobby Frank Cherry

Jones prosecuted Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, two members of the Ku Klux Klan, for their roles in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The case was reopened the year before Jones was appointed, but did not pick up traction until his appointment. A federal grand jury was called in 1998, which piqued the attention of Cherry's ex-wife, Willadean Cherry, and led her to call the FBI to report her testimony. Willadean then introduced Jones to family and friends, who reported their own experiences from the time of the bombing. A key piece of evidence was a tape from the time of the bombing in which Blanton stated that he had plotted with others to make the bomb. Jones was deputized in order to argue in state court and was able to indict Blanton and Cherry in 2000.[14][15] Blanton was found guilty in 2001, and Cherry was found guilty in 2002. Both Blanton and Cherry were sentenced to life in prison. Blanton was up for parole in 2016, at which Jones spoke in opposition to his potential release. Blanton's parole was denied. Cherry died in prison in 2004.[16][17]

External video
After Words interview with Jones on Bending Toward Justice, March 9, 2019, C-SPAN

Jones recounts the history of the bombings and his subsequent involvement in Blanton and Cherry's prosecution in his 2019 book, Bending Toward Justice: The Birmingham Church Bombing that Changed the Course of Civil Rights.[18]

Later legal career[edit]

Jones left office in 2001 and returned to private practice. In 2004, he was court-appointed General Special Master in an environmental clean-up case involving Monsanto in Anniston, Alabama.[19][20][21] In 2007 Jones was honored with the 15th Anniversary Civil Rights Distinguished Service Award from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.[22] Also in 2007, Jones testified before the United States House Committee on the Judiciary about the importance of re-examining crimes of the Civil Rights Era.[23][24] He created the Birmingham firm Jones & Hawley, PC with longtime friend Greg Hawley in 2013.[19] He was named one of B-Metro Magazine's Fusion Award winners in 2015.[25] In 2017 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alabama chapter of the Young Democrats of America.[26]

U.S. Senate[edit]

2017 election[edit]

Jones campaign logo, 2017

On May 11, 2017, Jones announced his candidacy for that year's U.S. Senate special election, running for the seat left open when Jeff Sessions was appointed as Attorney General. Sessions, a Republican, had held the Senate seat since being elected in 1996, when Democrat Howell Heflin chose not to run for re-election, and had kept it through three re-elections.[27] Jones won the Democratic nomination in August,[28] and became the Senator-elect for Alabama after defeating Republican former Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore in the general election on December 12, 2017, which was also Jones' 25th wedding anniversary.[29][30]

Jones at a campaign rally in October 2017

Jones received 673,896 votes (50.0%) to Moore's 651,972 votes (48.3%) with 22,852 write-in votes (1.7%).[29] After the election, Moore refused to concede. He filed a lawsuit attempting to block the state from certifying the election and calling for an investigation into voter fraud, as well as a new election.[31] On December 28, 2017, a judge dismissed this lawsuit and state officials certified the election results, officially declaring Jones the winner.[32]

Tenure[edit]

Jones was sworn in on January 3, 2018, and his term will run through January 3, 2021, the remaining balance of Sessions' term.[33][34] He is the first Democrat to represent the state in the U.S. Senate in 21 years, and the first elected in 25.[35][36] Jones was one of five Democratic senators who voted for the continuing resolution that failed to pass and consequently led to the United States federal government shutdown of 2018.[37] According to Morning Consult, which polls approval ratings of senators, as of April 25, 2019, Jones sits with a 40% approval rating, with 34% disapproving. This trails Jones' fellow senator, Republican Richard Shelby, who sits with a 46% approval rating, with 25% disapproving.[38]

On January 8, 2019, Jones was one of four Democrats to vote to advance a bill imposing sanctions against the Syrian government and furthering U.S. support for Israel and Jordan as Democratic members of the chamber employed tactics to end the stalemate of the United States federal government shutdown of 2018–2019.[39]

Committee assignments[edit]

Political positions[edit]

The editorial board of The Birmingham News has described Jones as a "moderate Democrat".[41] Former Alabama Democratic Party chair Giles Perkins described Jones as "a moderate, middle-of-the-road guy".[42] Describing his own views, Jones said: "If you look at the positions I've got on health care, if you look at the positions I [have] got on jobs, you should look at the support I have from the business community; I think I'm pretty mainstream."[43] Jones' campaign has emphasized "kitchen table" issues such as healthcare and the economy.[44][45][46] He has called for bipartisan solutions to those issues[47] and pledged to "find common ground" between both sides of the aisle.[48] Senator Jones said that people should not "expect [him] to vote solidly for Republicans or Democrats".[49] During his election campaign, Jones received bipartisan support including from Republican Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona).[50][51] According to FiveThirtyEight, which tracks Congressional votes, Senator Jones has voted with President Trump's position 45.7% of the time as of March 2019.[52]

In contrast, a July 2018 NBC News editorial stated that Jones has "staked out a portfolio of liberal positions". It stated that he voted with Donald Trump more often than all but three of his fellow Democratic senators.[53]

Social issues[edit]

Jones supports the reversal of mandatory three-strikes laws for non-violent offenses to give judges flexibility in giving sentences.[45] Jones opposed both immigration bills that were proposed in the Senate since he entered office.[54]

Abortion[edit]

Jones is pro-choice on the issue of abortion. In 2018, Planned Parenthood, which is pro-choice, gave Jones a 100% rating while the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee gave him a 0% rating. Jones voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibits abortion after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest and danger to the pregnant woman's health.[55] He also pledged to support Planned Parenthood as a Senator.[56] In May 2019, he criticized the passage of an abortion ban in Alabama, saying it was "shameful."[57]

In February 2019, along with Joe Manchin and Bob Casey Jr., Jones was one of three Senate Democrats to vote for the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, legislation requiring health care practitioners present at the time of a birth "exercise the same degree of professional skill, care, and diligence to preserve the life and health of the child as a reasonably diligent and conscientious health care practitioner would render to any other child born alive at the same gestational age."[58]

Criminal justice reform[edit]

In December 2018, Jones voted for the First Step Act, legislation aimed at reducing recidivism rates among federal prisoners through expanding job training and other programs in addition to forming an expansion of early-release programs and modifications on sentencing laws such as mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, "to more equitably punish drug offenders."[59]

Gun control[edit]

Jones supports some gun control measures including "tighter background checks for gun sales and to raise the age requirement to purchase a gun from 18 to 21".[60] However, Jones said that he does not support an assault weapons ban and that such a ban could not pass Congress.[61] Jones is himself a gun owner.[62]

In March 2018, Jones was one of ten senators to sign a letter to Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Lamar Alexander and ranking Democrat Patty Murray requesting they schedule a hearing on the causes and remedies of mass shootings in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.[63]

In 2018, Jones was a cosponsor of the NICS Denial Notification Act,[64] legislation developed in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that would require federal authorities to inform states within a day of a prohibited person attempting to buy a firearm failing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.[65]

Immigration[edit]

In 2018, Jones participated in votes concerning immigration and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Jones voted in favor of the McCainCoons proposal to offer a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, but which did not include funding for a border wall, voted against withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities, voted for Senator Collins' bipartisan bill to offer a pathway to citizenship and federal funding for border security, and voted against President Trump's proposal to offer a pathway to citizenship while reducing overall legal immigration numbers and using federal funds for a border wall.[66] He has also proposed reassessing the current quota system.[67] He has agreed that improvements in border security are needed but it is not a national emergency.[68]

LGBT rights[edit]

Jones is supportive of same-sex marriage and said that his son Carson, who is gay, helped to change his views.[69] In 2017, he was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, which supports LGBT rights.[70] Jones supports protections for transgender students and transgender troops.[71]

Defense[edit]

In March 2018, Jones voted against Bernie Sanders' and Chris Murphy's resolution that would end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[72]

In an interview with The Birmingham News, Jones said he favored increasing defense spending, saying it would boost Alabama's local economy, particularly in the areas around NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal, and would protect the United States from foreign threats.[73]

Jones voted in favor of Mike Pompeo's confirmation as Secretary of State, joining with Republicans and five other Democratic Senators. However, he opposed Gina Haspel's nomination to be CIA director.[74]

Economy[edit]

Jones has been described as an economic populist by Newsweek.[75] Jones was one of five Democrats who voted for the Republican budget deal in January 2018.[76] He also was one of 17 Democrats to break with the majority of their party and vote with Republicans in favor of a bill to ease banking regulations.[77] Jones opposes the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration.[78]

Education[edit]

In February 2019, Jones was one of twenty senators to sponsor the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, enabling employers to contribute up to $5,250 to the student loans of their employees as a means of granting employees relief and incentivizing applicants to apply to jobs with employers who implement the policy.[79]

Environment[edit]

In March 2019, Jones was one of three Democrats to vote with all Senate Republicans against the Green New Deal when it came up for a procedural vote. All other Senate Democrats voted "present" on the legislation, a move anticipated as allowing them to avoid having a formal position.[80]

In June 2019, Jones was one of forty-four senators to introduce the International Climate Accountability Act, legislation that would prevent President Trump from using funds in an attempt to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and directing the president's administration to instead develop a strategic plan for the United States that would allow it to meet its commitment under the Paris Agreement.[81]

Healthcare[edit]

On health care, Jones opposes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but he has called for changes to the U.S. health-care system, which he calls broken.[82] He supports the re-authorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program[82] and during his senatorial campaign repeatedly criticized his opponent for his lack of a clear stance on the program.[82][83] Jones says he is open to the idea of a public option, but that he is "not there yet" on single-payer healthcare.[45] In January 2018, Jones was one of six Democrats to join with most Republicans in voting to confirm Alex Azar, Trump's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services.[84]

In December 2018, Jones was one of forty-two senators to sign a letter to Trump administration officials Alex Azar, Seema Verma, and Steve Mnuchin arguing that the administration was improperly using Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize states to "increase health care costs for millions of consumers while weakening protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions". The senators requested the administration withdraw the policy and "re-engage with stakeholders, states, and Congress".[85]

In January 2019, Jones was one of six senators to cosponsor the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act, delaying the Health Insurance Tax for two years.[86]

In January 2019, during the 2018–19 United States federal government shutdown, Jones was one of thirty-four senators to sign a letter to Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb recognizing the efforts of the FDA to address the effect of the government shutdown on the public health and employees while remaining alarmed "that the continued shutdown will result in increasingly harmful effects on the agency's employees and the safety and security of the nation's food and medical products".[87]

In February 2019, Jones was one of eleven senators to sign a letter to insulin manufactures Eli Lilly and Company, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi over increased insulin prices and charging the price increases with having caused patients to lack "access to the life-saving medications they need".[88]

Taxes[edit]

Jones has not called for tax increases and has instead called for reductions in corporate taxes "to try to get reinvestment back into this country".[89] Jones opposed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Republican Party's tax plan, calling it fiscally irresponsible, and skewed to the wealthy while ignoring or hurting the middle class.[89]

Trade[edit]

In December 2018, Jones stated that automakers and soybean farmers were fearful of the Trump administration's trade policy and added that his constituents in Alabama were questioning Trump's success.[90]

In February 2019, amid a report by the Commerce Department that ZTE had been caught illegally shipping goods of American origin to Iran and North Korea, Jones was one of seven senators to sponsor a bill reimposing sanctions on ZTE in the event that ZTE did not honor both American laws and its agreement with the Trump administration.[91]

Veterans[edit]

In December 2018, Jones was one of twenty-one senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie calling it "appalling that the VA is not conducting oversight of its own outreach efforts" in spite of suicide prevention being the VA's highest clinical priority and requesting Wilkie "consult with experts with proven track records of successful public and mental health outreach campaigns with a particular emphasis on how those individuals measure success".[92]

Personal life[edit]

Doug and Louise Jones with Terri Sewell in January 2017

Jones married Louise New on December 12, 1992,[93] and they have three children.[94] He has been a member of the Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mountain Brook for more than 33 years.[95] Jones also serves on the Advisory Board of the Blackburn Institute, a leadership development and civic engagement program at The University of Alabama.[96]

Electoral history[edit]

Jones celebrating his U.S. Senate election victory

2017[edit]

United States Senate special primary election in Alabama, 2017[28]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Doug Jones 109,105 66.1
Democratic Robert Kennedy Jr. 29,215 17.7
Democratic Michael Hansen 11,105 6.7
Democratic Will Boyd 8,010 4.9
Democratic Jason Fisher 3,478 2.1
Democratic Brian McGee 1,450 0.9
Democratic Charles Nana 1,404 0.9
Democratic Vann Caldwell 1,239 0.8
Total votes 165,006 100.0%
General election results[97][98]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Doug Jones 673,896 50.0%
Republican Roy Moore 651,972 48.3%
Write-in Write-ins 22,852 1.7%
Total votes 1,348,720 100.0%
Democratic gain from Republican

References[edit]

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  89. ^ a b "Donald Trump wrongly claims Doug Jones wants to raise taxes". PolitiFact. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  90. ^ "Doug Jones: Carmakers 'scared to death' over Trump tariffs". The Hill. December 13, 2018.
  91. ^ "U.S. lawmakers target China's ZTE with sanctions bill". Reuters. February 5, 2019.
  92. ^ "U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Presses VA for Answers on Misuse Of Suicide Prevention Funds". urbanmilwaukee.com. January 4, 2019.
  93. ^ "Meet Doug Jones": "Doug is married to the former Louise New from Cullman, Alabama. They will celebrate their 25th anniversary the night of the Special Election in December". Doug Jones for Senate. August 16, 2017. Retrieved August 16, 2017.
  94. ^ Jones, Doug (August 16, 2017). "Meet Doug Jones". Doug Jones for Senate. Retrieved August 16, 2017.
  95. ^ Garrison, Greg (September 28, 2017). "Son of a steelworker, Doug Jones works to connect with Alabama voters". AL.com. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  96. ^ "Advisory Board". Blackburn Institute. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  97. ^ "2017 Official General Election Results without Write-In Appendix - 2017-12-28.pdf" (PDF). Alabama Secretary of State. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  98. ^ "Who got the most write-in votes in Alabama's Senate race? Nick Saban makes top 7". Al.com. Retrieved January 3, 2018.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Claude Harris Jr.
United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama
1997–2001
Succeeded by
Alice Martin
Party political offices
Vacant
Title last held by
Vivian Davis Figures
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Alabama
(Class 2)

2017
Most recent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Luther Strange
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Alabama
2018–present
Served alongside: Richard Shelby
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Tina Smith
United States Senators by seniority
90th
Succeeded by
Cindy Hyde-Smith