Doug Jones, the former U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members for an infamous church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, has jumped into the race to fill Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat.
“Alabama has been embarrassed enough the last few years by political leaders who have not been leaders at all,” Jones said in a statement. “Instead of listening to the concerns that each of [us] face every day, like jobs and wages, adequate and affordable health care and first rate educations for our children and grandchildren, they have played on our fears and exploited our divisions for their own self interests.”
President Bill Clinton named Jones the U.S. attorney in Birmingham in 1997. In 2002, he was the lead prosecutor in the case against two of the men responsible for bombing the 16th Street Baptist Church on Sept. 15, 1963. The heinous act killed four African-American girls during church services. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. called it “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”
Jones did not return a request for additional comment.
Jones joins a field of other candidates for a special election to fill the seat vacated by Sessions, who is now President Donald Trump’s attorney general. The primary election is Aug. 15, and the general is Dec. 12.
Robert Kennedy Jr. has also filed paperwork to run as a Democrat in the Senate race. The Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman said she is unsure if Kennedy is related to the late president’s family. A spokesperson for the environmental organization run by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ― the son of 1968 Democratic presidential nominee Bobby Kennedy who has found common ground with Trump on their skepticism about vaccines ― did not immediately return a request for comment.
The seat, however, is considered solidly GOP. Republican Luther Strange has served in it since Sessions became attorney general. In addition, the GOP primary campaign features former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ― famous for telling state judges to ignorefederal rulings in favor of same-sex marriage ― state Rep. Ed Henry, former Christian Coalition of Alabama President Dr. Randy Brinson, and businessman Dominic Gentile.
In 1986, Sessions failed to win confirmation for a federal judgeship after allegations about comments he had made about civil rights and race, including calling a black attorney “boy,” joking that the only issue he had with the KKK was its members’ drug use and referring to civil rights groups as “un-American” organizations.