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Rep. Byrne: Doug Jones Will Lose His Alabama Senate Seat In 2020

Dec 13, 2017
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RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Yeah. So one of the themes of Republican Roy Moore's campaign has been that he's never going to stop fighting, right? He's said that time and again. Now he says he is not going to concede.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY MOORE: When the vote is this close, it's not over. And we've still got to go by the rules about this recount provision, but we also know that God is always in control.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Amen.

MARTIN: If Moore does want a recount, he most likely is going to have to pay for it himself. The state's tally has him down by about 1.5 percentage points, which is not close enough to trigger an automatic recount. We are joined now by Bradley Byrne. He's a Republican congressman from Alabama. He represents the 1st Congressional District in the southwestern part of the state.

Congressman Byrne, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

BRADLEY BYRNE: It's great to be with you.

MARTIN: Your party just lost an important election. Why couldn't Roy Moore pull this off?

BYRNE: This was as weird an election as I have ever seen. It started back in the winter when Jeff Sessions left that Senate seat and our now-disgraced former governor, Robert Bentley, appointed the attorney general that was supposed to be investigating him to take that seat. And then we had Mitch McConnell weigh heavily into the race, forcing good candidates out and then attacking candidates during the primary. And that ended up with a very weak candidate in the former attorney general against Roy Moore, and Roy Moore won the primary.

Now, Roy Moore, in 2012, ran in a general election for chief justice of Alabama Supreme Court, won by 4 points when Mitt Romney carried Alabama by 20 points. So Roy Moore going into this election was already a very weak candidate. And then five weeks ago, you had these absolutely remarkable allegations that came out from several different women - over-35-year-old allegations - and all this national attention, all this hype. And I just think this is one of those elections that will never be replicated again in my lifetime. Doug Jones, who's a friend of mine - I like him very much. Doug Jones will lose his seat in 2020.

MARTIN: President Trump tweeted about the election results last night. He wrote, the reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange - and his numbers went up mightily, he says in parentheses - is that Roy - I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the general election. I was right, the president tweeted. Roy worked hard, but the deck was stacked against him. Do you agree with the president? Do you think that Luther Strange could've won in this general?

BYRNE: Yeah, I think Luther Strange would have won. I think just about anybody would have won that didn't have these incredible allegations that came out in the last five weeks. And then you had this bizarre circumstance where Judge Moore left the state the weekend before the election. Look, this was a very close race. I mean, little things can make a big difference here. The number of write-in votes are greater than the margin in the race. So when you're in a - and I've been in an election like this. I won in a special election four years ago. Every little thing you do matters. And I think we left some of the effort on the table, unfortunately.

MARTIN: And you mention the write-in votes. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama said he wasn't going to support Roy Moore. He said he was going to write in - that he did write in another Republican who he didn't name. Do you think that did give Republicans who didn't like Roy Moore cover to do the same thing?

BYRNE: Well, it's hard to guess about something like that. I can tell you, I talked to a lot of Alabama Republican voters who were really torn, and some of them told me that they just thought they weren't going to turn out to vote. So if you look at the actual vote, obviously, a lot of Trump voters either didn't show up and vote as they did a year ago or they showed up and voted for a Democrat, which is extraordinary.

This will never happen again in my lifetime in Alabama. But these things happen in politics, and you have to move on. Doug's a good guy. I'll come up here. I'll work with him as a member of the congressional delegation. But he will not win re-election in 2020 because Alabama's a deep-red state, and we won't be electing somebody in 2020 that will be on the Democratic side of the column.

MARTIN: So Democrats, as you know - we just heard Tom Perez say it - think otherwise. They think that this has changed things in Alabama, that they can be more competitive there. You clearly don't agree. You think this is just a one-off.

BYRNE: Tom Perez knows as much about Alabama as I know about Antarctica. He hasn't spent any time there. He doesn't know anything about Alabama politics. He's just spinning. Look, I know my state very well. I've lived there my whole life. My family's been there for over 200 years. We are a deep-red state. We're going to revert to form next year in 2018, and we'll revert to form in 2020.

MARTIN: You talk about the fact that Roy Moore was a flawed candidate, that the allegations of sexual abuse really did hamper his candidacy. May I ask if you voted for Roy Moore?

BYRNE: I voted straight Republican, as I always do. I don't write in candidates.

MARTIN: It didn't disturb you enough to change your vote, to decide to write in a third party, as Richard Shelby did?

BYRNE: The allegations were over 35 years old. There never was an opportunity for a clear way to get to the actual truth of what they were saying. Until I could get to that point, I'm not going to leave what I consider to be my obligation as a Republican office holder. I think I signed a pledge to vote for Republican candidates. If I feel like I can't vote for Republican candidates, I shouldn't be a Republican anymore.

MARTIN: Republican Congressman Bradley Byrne, representing the 1st Congressional District here in the state of Alabama. Thanks so much for your time this morning, congressman.

BYRNE: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.