Doug Jones called for a rejection of divisiveness and a change in the “face of Alabama” during a Saturday night get-out-the-vote rally, featuring a performance by local soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
The concert was the fourth get-out-the-vote event of the day for Jones, the Democrat widely seen as the underdog in the special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
At 2:15 p.m. that afternoon, he’d visited Selma — an area noted by the New York Times in November to have limited awareness of Jones’ candidacy or the Senate race as a whole — for a meet and greet with community members at Brown Chapel AME Church, where he was joined by the city’s mayor, Darrio Melton, and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick.
In Huntsville a few hours later, he’d been joined by Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, for a rally at Alabama State University. Both events seemed aimed at reaching out to African Americans, a demographic with which Jones has had difficulty connecting.
Then, just an hour before the Birmingham event, an official get-out-the-vote concert was held in Huntsville featuring Alabama alternative country artist Jason Isbell.
“I need one of y’all to do me a favor,” Isbell joked to the at-capacity crowd. “I need to you to vote (for Jones) for me, because I live in Tennessee now, and there’s one particular family member I look forward to telling I canceled out their vote. So I need you to do that for me.”
The St. Paul and the Broken Bones event wasn’t at-capacity; with 5,000 seats, the Boutwell is a difficult venue to fill with a one-day notice. But the crowd was still trickling in even as the lights dimmed and the band took the stage.
The performance actually just consisted of frontman Paul Janeway and Browan Lollar. “We should have advertised it as ‘St. Paul and the Broken Bone,’” joked Janeway, who assured the audience that the absent band members also were voting for Jones.
In between stripped-back performances of the band’s songs, Janeway remarked on the band’s status as “minor ambassadors” of Birmingham. “This is kind of one of those elections where you’re like, ‘Please let Doug Jones win, because God knows I don’t want to take any questions about Roy Moore,” he said.
The band performed for roughly 15 minutes before Jones took the stage. “I’m not going to play with you guys; they’re coming back,” Jones promised the crowd.
Jones Compares His Chances to Those for Snow
Jones started his speech by referencing Friday’s five-inch snow in Birmingham, comparing his chances of winning to the chances of that weather event — unforeseeable but possible.
“The wind is starting to get with us,” he said to the crowd. “You can feel the energy … . Now is the time for change. Now is our time to make the winds of change blow through Alabama. I feel it, I’m telling you. I feel it, I believe it.”
He called out his opponent, Roy Moore, for his absence from the campaign trail and his refusal to engage in a debate. “If I didn’t know any better, I wouldn’t think there was anybody running against us,” he said, then harped on his opponent’s “divisiveness.”
“(Moore) has been a disaster for the face of this state,” he said. “I can look around this auditorium tonight and I can tell you, this is the face of Alabama, this is the caring people I’ve known all my life.“
Part of healing that divisiveness, Jones said, would come from rejecting kneejerk partisan responses to political candidates.
“We’ve got to get out of that mindset,” he said. “We need to have a mindset when someone stands up and puts themselves out to run for political office, the question they need to be asked is, ‘What is your purpose?’ Do not let any label define you.”
Jones then brought Deval Patrick onstage to give a brief stump speech. Patrick called for a rebuilding of “a sense of community, of common cause, of generational responsibility … . We have a chance to take a step in that direction with Doug Jones.”
“We need leadership that asks us to turn to each other, not on each other,” he added. “In a democracy, we get the government we deserve. Think about it. And if you want something, you’ve got to work for it … . This is within your grasp. And when you send Doug Jones to the United States Senate, you send a voice of unity, of generational responsibility, of integrity, sorely needed in Alabama and America.”
Before reintroducing St. Paul and the Broken Bones back to the stage for a two-song encore, Jones made his final call to action: “Folks,” he said, “we have an opportunity on Dec. 12 for hope and history.”