Will the election shocker in Alabama impact N.H.’s 2018 elections?

  • Doug Jones is greeted by a supporter before speaking during an election-night watch party Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. Jones has defeated Republican Roy Moore, a one-time GOP pariah who was embraced by the Republican Party and the president even after facing allegations of sexual impropriety. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore

For the Monitor
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A top New Hampshire Democrat says the upset victory by Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s blockbuster U.S. Senate special election instantly energized Democrats back home.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people in our own caucus that have emailed me how excited they are, and I think it bodes well for New Hampshire,” House minority leader Steve Shurtleff told the Monitor on Wednesday, waiting for his flight home at the Birmingham, Ala., airport after campaigning on Jones’s behalf.

But top Granite State Republicans countered that the defeat of Roy Moore in the Tuesday showdown, which played out on the national stage, won’t “have legs” in New Hampshire.

An anti-establishment candidate and a strong advocate for far-right positions, Moore was a controversial figure who was twice removed from his position on Alabama’s high court (the second time for continuing to enforce his state’s same-sex marriage ban even after it was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court).

In the closing weeks of the campaign, Moore faced an explosion of allegations of sexual misconduct by multiple women who said he’d harassed and abused them when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s.

Tom Rath, a former state attorney general and longtime GOP consultant who’s advised numerous presidential campaigns, said Moore was a tainted candidate.

“Typically, good candidates beat bad candidates, and I think the Republicans had a bad candidate,” Rath said.

Shurtleff led a group of seven State House Democrats to Alabama on Sunday, to volunteer for Jones, a former federal prosecutor. The group canvassed on Monday and Tuesday, knocking on doors in two predominantly black communities in suburbs of Birmingham, the state’s largest city.

Turnout among black voters, who by tradition overwhelmingly support Democrats, was larger than expected. It was a crucial factor contributing to Jones’ victory, the first by a Democratic Senate candidate in Alabama in 25 years.

“Going door to door and asking people to come out and vote, the response I got from people was just tremendous,” Shurtleff said. “They would tell you ‘absolutely, I’ll be at the polls on Election Day. I’m not going to miss this election.’ ”

Many Democrats see the Alabama victory as the latest sign that they’ve got political wind at their backs. And Democratic strategists say that the win in Alabama will further galvanize activists, helping the party as it tries to hold onto the state’s two U.S. House seats, retake the governor’s office, and win back majorities in the State House.

“What you’ve seen in New Hampshire, what you saw in Alabama, is that Democrats are energized,” New Hampshire Young Democrats President Lucas Meyer told the Monitor. “We’re turning out more people. More people are willing to come in elections that they traditionally weren’t coming out for, because they’re energized. They want to vote.”

Meyer added that the Alabama election victory, coupled with the party’s electoral success in New Hampshire this year, make recruitment of quality candidates for the 2018 contests an easier endeavor.

“It is a much easier conversation right now to have with folks,” Meyer said. “People want to get involved and want to run. I think we’re going to see some more pipeline growth.”

Wednesday morning, former executive councilor Colin Van Ostern sent an email to supporters highlighting “a huge win in deep-red Alabama.”

Van Ostern, the 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nominee who narrowly lost to Republican Chris Sununu, has said he’s mulling another run for governor next year. He used the email to supporters to criticize Sununu’s backing of the Republican tax bill which is expected to face final votes in Congress next week.

But some top Granite State Republicans questioned the Democrats’ enthusiasm over the Alabama victory.

New Hampshire GOP Chairwoman Jeanie Forrester told the Monitor, “What’s happening in Alabama is not what’s happening in New Hampshire.”

Still, Rath had a warning for his own party. Rath argued that Moore’s host of problems still “doesn’t explain (the Alabama election) and people better take a look at what happened here. One thing is the demographics don’t lie. The base that elected Donald Trump is getting older and less relevant.”