National Democrats have had staff on the ground in Alabama supporting Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones for months, multiple Democratic sources tell VICE News, complicating Jones’ efforts to keep his race against scandal-marred Republican Roy Moore focused on local issues.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the party’s campaign arm tasked with supporting Democrats in Senate races, has had a team of what an aide described as “less than a handful of staff” in Alabama since the GOP runoff in September, all working under the direction of the campaign.
In a statement, the Jones campaign was also careful to emphasize that they were running the show.
“Our campaign is running the largest and most active Get Out the Vote program Alabama has seen in a generation. The Get Out the Vote program, as with all aspects of our campaign, is run by, funded by, directed by, and staffed with individuals hired by the campaign,” said Jones campaign spokesman Sebastian Kitchen.
Multiple sexual assault allegations against Moore have given Democrats a singular opportunity in a state where they haven’t won a statewide election in over a decade.
The steady stream of allegations against Moore — multiple women say he propositioned or assaulted them when they were teenagers — turned what was once an easily winnable race for the Republican into an unexpectedly tough fight. Recent polls have shown the race narrowing, with some even giving Jones a lead.
But the state’s deep-red lean, where Donald Trump won with about 63 percent of the vote in 2016, means that to win, Jones will need to keep the race laser-focused on Alabama and avoid being tied to national Democrats.
The DSCC’s confirmed involvement could give Republicans an opening to do just that. DSCC staffers are currently supporting the Jones campaign’s field efforts and providing logistical and strategic support, like helping the campaign hire field coordinators and recruiting canvassers to get out the vote. It’s unclear how much of a financial commitment the DSCC has made to the Jones campaign, but the staff involvement marks a more extensive effort from the DSCC than had been previously reported.
Jones has tried to walk a delicate line in the campaign thus far, largely avoiding help from national Democrats, aside from a campaign visit by former Vice President Joe Biden in early October.
But when asked by VICE News at the time if he’d want former President Obama to campaign for him as well, Jones offered a telling dodge.
“We’re going to focus on the Alabama issues. Those issues are going to attract probably any number of people,” he said.
Pressed on whether he was avoiding help from Obama because of the potential backlash from Republican voters, Jones said only, “We’re not going to make this race a national race.”
CORRECTION: This article originally incorrectly stated the DSCC had added staff after the sexual assault allegations concerning Roy Moore surfaced.