Jones, a Democrat, said his Republican opponent in the Nov. 3 general election lacked deep knowledge of the issues facing Alabamians right now -- as the state continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, racial inequities and more -- and added that Tuberville has no real ideas of his own.
“He just is simply talking, and now, he just — you know, people keep calling him ‘Coach,’" Jones said. “He’s just a water boy for Donald Trump. That’s it. You want to use a sports analogy? He’s just Donald Trump’s water boy."
Jones brought his message directly to area voters just three days before Election Day, making campaign stops that included Bessemer, Fairfield, Pratt City and Roebuck. AL.com caught up with him outside a Walmart at 9248 Parkway East, where Jones greeted a crowd outside the store and urged them to vote from the intercom at the service desk inside.
In a wide-ranging interview that spanned just five questions, Jones forcefully criticized Tuberville, lauded his own record in the Senate and pointed to health care as the most important issue facing Alabamians today. He also echoed some of the themes emphasized by Joe Biden on the campaign trail, aligning himself with the Democratic presidential candidate’s views on climate change, the Affordable Care Act and more.
Here’s what Jones said.
Senator Jones, we’re down to the wire. What is your message to voters in Alabama, just three days before the election?
Jones: Compare the records. Look at where we are. You know, I was born and raised in Alabama. This guy came from Florida, just 18-19 months ago, just to run for the Senate. I was born and raised in Alabama. I know Alabama values; he doesn’t have a clue. He doesn’t have a clue about a lot of things.
Look at what we’ve talked about for the people of the state. Look at my record, the whole record, not just a couple of votes, but look at all the things that we’ve done for the people of this state, from Redstone Arsenal to veterans and farmers, for the military, for health-care workers. I’ve got a record that reflects Alabama. He’s not said anything about what he wants to do. He wants to just either build a wall, no amnesty, drain the swamp. That’s not his ideas; that’s somebody else’s ideas.
So my message is: Take a look. I’m one of you. I’m one of the people of this state. It’s all about one Alabama. It’s not about somebody who comes in and says, “It’s us vs. them.” That’s not who we are. That’s not who I’ve been in the United States Senate, 22 bipartisan bills that got passed by the Senate, signed by President Trump. In order to do things, we’ve got to reach across the aisle. We’ve got to work with people. He’s not capable of doing that.
You haven’t been able to have a debate with Tommy Tuberville, but if you could debate, what’s the issue you would like him to address? What would you press him on most?
Jones: I’d like to press him on a couple of things. No. 1, where do you really stand if Donald Trump’s not president? What would YOU do? Not what Donald Trump tells you to do, that’s No. 1. But I would also press him on a couple things. His extreme positions.
Why do you support the Alabama abortion law that doesn’t even make exceptions for rape and incest, even with the age of the victim? Why did you question Barack Obama’s birth certificate? Why don’t you believe in the science that tells us we’ve got to do something about climate change or we’re going to be in real trouble? Why do you support an immigration policy that rips children from their families at the border? Those are legitimate questions that he ought to answer.
That’s why he’s ducking the debate, in addition to the fact that he doesn’t know what the Voting Rights Act is. He doesn’t really know any of the issues. He just is simply talking, and now, he just — you know, people keep calling him “Coach.” He’s just a water boy for Donald Trump. That’s it. You want to use a sports analogy? He’s just Donald Trump’s water boy. And Donald Trump may or may not even be the coach.
What is the most important issue facing Alabamians today?
Jones: Health care, health care, health care. It was before the pandemic, but it is certainly in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve got to protect (the health of folks in Alabama). I mean, the Affordable Care Act has provided health care to so many, hundreds of thousands of Alabamians. And he wants to get rid of that in the middle of a pandemic. We can’t allow that to happen.
That’s the driving issue, but connected to that is helping Alabama’s economy pull out, bringing manufacturing jobs in, like the bills that I’ve got pending, bringing Alabama’s economy back, but doing it in the right way, doing it safely, doing it healthy, to make sure we can give extended unemployment for those until they can get a job. Make sure that we give payroll protection and loans for small businesses, to keep their doors open as we pull out of this. The economy and health care is so connected.
But make no mistake. Part of that is also connected to the third thing we’ve seen, and that is the racial inequities in this state and this country. The pandemic put a spotlight on 'em, and as we come out of this pandemic, we’ve got to do more to address it. We can no longer just turn our back on people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We’ve got to bring law enforcement in. I don’t support defunding the police. … I don’t support mob rule. I don’t support anything like that. But we’ve got to make sure that we address the racial inequities in law enforcement, in housing, in heath care, in jobs and the economy.
Your campaign motto is One Alabama. We seem so polarized and divided, as a state and as a nation. What specifically can you do to bring One Alabama about, to nudge us closer?
Jones: It’s a good question, but let me tell you, as a freshman senator, with a party that doesn’t control the Senate and doesn’t control the White House, (I’ve passed) 22 bills. Now you go back and look at the record and find out how many freshman senators have passed 22 bills signed into law by the president in their first three years in office. I bet it’s not many, if there’s anybody.
So, we’re just going to continue to do what I do. I have proven that I can work with Republicans, I can work even with Donald Trump as president of the United States. I can do it if Joe Biden is president of the United States. I’ve got that track record. So we can do it, and you’ve got to have the voices like mine to get through the partisanship.
That’s what I was talking about a minute ago. If you come into the Senate as “us vs. them,” if you come into the Senate saying, literally quoting, to quote Tommy Tuberville, “I don’t even call them Democrats anymore; I call them Communists and Marxists.” That is not the way to get things done. He can never get anything done, because nobody’s going to talk to him. And all he’s going to do is check a box, whatever Mitch McConnell tells him to do.
Reports in the media, including a recent one in The New York Times, have labeled your Senate seat as the most vulnerable for a Democratic incumbent. How does that feel during an election?
Jones: I’ve been around politics a long time. And so I know where Alabama has been, but I know where they’ve been a long time ago, too. I know where they’ve been when Democrats brought us Redstone Arsenal and college loans and rural hospitals and agriculture. So I know that the Democrats in Alabama have lost their way a little bit and we’re finding our footing. So I’ve been working on that; we’ve known that.
That’s why we’re representing one Alabama. That’s why, for the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been all over the state, making sure that people understand and know what I stand for, because that’s the Democratic Party in Alabama. That’s who we are. We’re for everybody. … We’re not just for the privileged few. We’re for that single mom who has to take her kids to the emergency room for routine health care. We’re for the folks out there making minimum wage, that need to make a living wage. We’re for businesses that want to grow their businesses. We’re for educators that want to bring broadband. That’s what my campaign is about.