Alabama Democrat officially declared winner in US Senate race
Washington (AFP) –
Democrat Doug Jones was formally declared the winner of the bitterly contested US Senate race in the southern state of Alabama on Thursday, whittling down the Republican majority in the chamber by a crucial seat.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill certified the results of the December 12 special election and dismissed claims of voter fraud by the campaign of the defeated Republican candidate, Roy Moore.
"This election has been conducted with the utmost integrity," Merrill told a news conference. "It's been safe, secure. It's been credible."
With Jones' upset victory in Alabama confirmed, the Republican party of President Donald Trump now holds 51 seats in the Senate and the Democrats have 49 -- the slimmest of majorities.
Jones, the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Republican bastion Alabama in 25 years, will be sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on January 3 when Congress returns to Washington after the holiday break.
"I am looking forward to going to work for the people of Alabama," Jones, a 63-year-old former federal prosecutor, said in a statement.
"I will be an independent voice and work to find common ground with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get Washington back on track and fight to make our country a better place for all."
In his own statement after the results were certified, Moore repeated his charge that the election was "fraudulent."
"I have stood for the truth about God and the Constitution for the people of Alabama," the conservative Christian said. "I have no regrets."
Moore did not say, however, whether he would seek a recount. He has 48 hours in which to do so.
Merrill said the allegations of voting irregularities by Moore's team had been thoroughly investigated and found to be baseless, while a judge threw out a suit seeking to delay the results certification.
- 22,000-vote margin -
Jones won 49.97 percent of the vote compared to Moore's 48.34 percent, a margin of nearly 22,000 votes out of 1.35 million cast, officials said -- a record for a special election.
The Alabama result dealt a stinging blow to Trump, who had thrown his support behind the 70-year-old Moore, a former chief justice of the state's Supreme Court.
Moore appeared to be the favorite in the contest to fill the Senate seat held by Jeff Sessions, who is now Trump's attorney general.
And Trump had easily captured the state in last year's presidential election.
Moore, who has suggested the 9/11 attacks may have happened because of a lack of faith in God and argued Muslims should be barred from holding office, had wanted to bring his fiery brand of Christian religious activism to Washington.
But his campaign was rocked in the final days of the race by allegations by several women that he had assaulted, molested or pursued them when they were teenagers -- and he was in his 30s, working as an assistant district attorney.
One said he had touched her inappropriately when she was 14.
Late Wednesday, Moore launched a last-minute legal challenge of the results, with his campaign citing "irregularities" in 20 precincts in Jefferson County, which it said were "enough to reverse the outcome of the election."
To back up the claims, Moore's team cited mathematician Richard Charnin, a conspiracy theorist who also asserts the 2004 presidential election and 2016 Democratic presidential primary were rigged.
The complaint also contained an affidavit from Moore "stating that he successfully completed a polygraph test confirming the representations of misconduct made against him during the campaign are completely false."
But Montgomery County Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick threw out the complaint.
- Controversy -
Moore served twice as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court but was relieved of his duties on both occasions.
The first time was in 2003 for refusing a judge's order to remove a granite monument of the 10 Commandments from the state supreme court building.
The second time was in 2016 for refusing to accept the US Supreme Court's ruling authorizing gay marriage.
© 2017 AFP