After a contentious election campaign, Democrat Doug Jones says he hopes Republican Roy Moore will “do the right thing” by conceding the special election for a U.S. Senate seat in the southern state of Alabama.
Jones won Tuesday’s election 49.9 percent to 48.4 percent, and followed with a pledge of unity Wednesday, saying “it’s a time for healing” and “a time for reaching out.”
Moore released a video message saying the final count of military and provisional ballots is not complete and that his campaign is waiting for the results to be certified by the Alabama secretary of state. That process is expected to be completed in about two weeks.
Jones’ margin of victory exceeded the half percentage point threshold mandating a recount in Alabama elections. State Republican chairman Terry Lathan signaled in a statement Wednesday he did not support a recount.
Lathan said Republicans are “deeply disappointed” in the outcome, but that the contest has ended.
Rebuke for Trump
Jones, a former federal prosecutor, is the first Democrat to win a Senate seat representing Alabama since 1992.
His win was a major rebuke for U.S. President Donald Trump, who had supported Moore, a state supreme court justice who had twice been tossed off the court for failing to adhere to federal court rulings and had recently faced allegations from women who accused him of sexual misconduct four decades ago when they were in their teens and he was in his early 30s.
Trump congratulated Jones, but also claimed he knew all along that Moore would not win the election because “the deck was stacked against him!”
Moore has denied the allegations against him and referred to them again in his video Wednesday night.
“Immorality sweeps over our land. Even our political process has been affected with baseless and false allegations which have become more relevant than the true issues which affect our country,” Moore said.
When Jones officially joins the 100-member Senate in January, the Republican majority will shrink from 52-48 to 51-49 and make it tougher for Trump to win approval for his legislative agenda.
A leading Republican lawmaker, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, told VOA the lesson Republicans should take from the election is that “flawed candidates lose.”
In a Twitter comment, Trump said the reason he originally had endorsed Senator Luther Strange in a Republican primary election against Moore “is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”
In another assessment, Trump said, “If last night’s election proved anything, it proved that we need to put up GREAT Republican candidates to increase the razor thin margins in both the House and Senate.”
Some GOP opposition
Numerous key Republican figures, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and two former presidential candidates, Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, all to no avail urged Moore to drop out of the race after two women, now in their 50s, accused Moore of molesting them when they were teenagers.
Several Republican lawmakers said they would have launched an effort to expel him from the Senate had he won. Moore’s defeat ended the likelihood that Republicans would have had to constantly answer questions about the allegations against him.
WATCH: Jones Win in Alabama Senate Race Could Signal a Democratic Wave in 2018
Exit polls showed Jones winning by huge margins over Moore from African-American voters and white liberals, while also capturing some Republicans voters disturbed by sexual misconduct allegations against Moore. The Republican won wide support from Republican Party faithful and evangelical Christians drawn to Moore’s frequent biblical references at his campaign rallies.
Jones will serve the remaining three years of the term of the Senate seat once held by Jeff Sessions, who resigned to join Trump’s Cabinet as attorney general, the country’s top law enforcement position.
Mike Bowman contributed to this report.