Several aspects of Alabama's just-completed U.S. Senate contest have been reminding me of Louisiana's own race from hell, the 1991 gubernatorial runoff between David Duke and Edwin Edwards. Now that the votes are counted, there's one more similarity: A happy ending.
It's not hard to equate Duke, the former Klan leader and proven anti-Semite, with Roy Moore. The former Alabama Supreme Court justice had a long list of demerits even before The Washington Post reported a bevy of credible allegations that, as a 30-something prosecutor, he'd pursued inappropriate sexual contact with teenage girls as young as 14. Moore had twice been booted from office for refusing to follow court orders, once to remove a Ten Commandments monument from courthouse grounds and once to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision making same-sex marriage legal across the land. He has a long record of bigotry against Muslims, gay people, and former President Barack Obama.
Yet like Duke, he was a Republican running against a Democrat in a conservative state in which voters often responded to populist pitches.
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If Duke has some similarities to Moore, the man who beat him Tuesday night, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, is no Edwin Edwards. Jones' reputation as a prosecutor is rock solid. People questioned his policy positions but not his integrity or character.
Still, in some ways this must have been a tougher choice for some. The Louisiana governor race was self-contained, but Tuesday's result will definitely affect the balance of power in Washington, and will make it harder for Republicans to pass party-line legislation and easier for Democrats to take control of the Senate in next year's midterm elections. Jones is also pro-choice, in a state in which that's a deal killer for some voters.
Yet in both states, enough voters decided that there were more important things at stake, that there are just some lines that shouldn't be crossed.
If Louisiana is any guide, Alabama's decision will wear well.
Even after Edwards wound up in the feds' crosshairs — again — and was finally convicted and sent to prison, it was hard to find voters here who admitted having backed Duke. But it was easy to find people of all political persuasions who took pride in having opposed him. More than a quarter century later, it still is.
Louisiana voters have gotten it wrong more times than I can count, but when it really mattered, they got it right. Alabamians can now say the same. I suspect that they too will be doing so, loudly and proudly, for years to come.