ANNISTON, Alabama—B.L. Shirley is a Republican woman from a Republican county who always—always—votes Republican. And yet, on a windy, grey morning last weekend, the Talladega, Alabama, retiree found herself in, of all places, a Democrat’s campaign office, wondering just what she could do to defeat the GOP candidate running for a seat in the U.S. Senate from her state.
“Roy Moore,” she said, when asked why she would go canvassing for Democrat Doug Jones before the special election on Dec. 12. “I think Roy Moore is an impostor. I am a Christian and I don’t want to be counted in his camp. He’s a divisive person.”If Jones is to pull off a victory, it will be because women like Shirley knocked on doors, called neighbors, and worked to convince otherwise skeptical voters that his opponent is fundamentally unfit for the office he’s seeking. A few weeks ago, that seemed like a tall order. As the election nears, it no longer appears quite so improbable.
Allegations that Moore routinely pursued teenage girls and in some cases assaulted them when he was a single man in his thirties have caused Republican voters in Alabama to reassess their options. Some have decided to rally around the nominee. But others have recoiled, leaving Moore in real risk of losing his attempt to take over the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
More than any other group, it is the women of Alabama, specifically Republican women, who will be the divisive voting bloc.
Women like Walton Foster.
A Republican and a Christian, Foster voted for Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in the special election primary and said she plans to cast her ballot for Jones in the general. She considers Roy Moore “an abomination.”
“Our historically Republican-leaning suburb is covered with Doug Jones signs. I have seen one for Roy Moore,” said Foster, a mother of two teenage boys who lives in a suburb of Birmingham. “He is more about his personal agenda and less about what is good for the state of Alabama. He does not seem interested in working with anyone. He has refused to debate and defend his positions publicly. When you add the nine accusations—nine!—it is clear he is unfit for office.”
Moore himself seems acutely aware that his standing among the women of Alabama is precarious at best. Over the past few days, his campaign has held press events with women testifying to his character while his wife has become his most public-facing surrogate.
The message has been that he is a victim of the liberal media, not a predator who targeted underage girls. Democrats in the state say it isn’t working.
Sheila Gilbert, the chair of the Calhoun County Democratic Party, said she’s heard from a number of unhappy Republican women since the allegations against Moore came to light in The Washington Post several weeks ago. She believes that those woman, and that story, have fundamentally changed the course of the Senate race.“I worked on a phone bank the other night with women calling women and a lot of women just wanted to talk,” Gilbert said. “They were saying they were Republicans and they’re going to vote for Doug Jones. They are appalled. I’ve heard a lot of that.”