Running for Senate was always something Doug Jones wanted to do.
“It just all seemed like the right time and the right place and the right moment in my life to do it,” he explained in a late-October interview with The Washington Post.
On Tuesday, Jones’s long-shot bet to snatch away a Republican-held seat in the heart of the conservative Deep South paid off. As it turned out, he was in the right place at the right time — a candidate who was lifted to victory in large measure by a series of twists and turns on the GOP side.
A September primary win by Roy Moore, a polarizing former state judge, ruined plans by Senate GOP leaders to boost to victory Republican Sen. Luther Strange. Then Moore came up against accusations first reported by The Washington Post in November that he made unwanted sexual advances to teenage girls as young as 14 when he was in his 30s. The controversy jolted Jones into serious competition.
Now, Jones, 63, a first-time candidate for office who overcame the strong rightward tilt of his state, will become perhaps the most unexpected member of the Senate in recent history.
It remains unclear where he will fit in the chamber, a polarized legislative body that could put him in an awkward middle ground between an increasingly vocal bloc of rising liberal Democratic stars and scores of conservative Republicans.
Jones was born and raised in a Birmingham suburb and stayed in Alabama for college and law school.
On the campaign trail, Jones liked to mention the late Howell Heflin, Alabama's last Democratic senator and his former boss. Jones worked as staff counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee for Heflin, according to the biography on his campaign website.
Before his Senate campaign, Jones was best-known for prosecuting Ku Klux Klan members responsible for a 1963 church bombing in Birmingham that killed four African American girls.
Jones, who is white, told that story often as a candidate. It boosted his credibility among the state’s many African American voters, whose support for Jones was crucial to his win.
It’s an open question what kind of senator Jones will be. He often dodged questions about President Trump, cognizant that the president was well-liked among the many crossover Republicans he knew he had to win.
He has also dodged questions about his own party's leaders, who are political villains in many parts of this ruby red state. In the October interview, Jones declined to say whether he would support Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) as leader of the Senate Democrats.
On abortion, Jones's views are in line with many Democratic leaders. He has voiced support for current laws, not a change some conservatives have embraced, to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
While Jones tried to evoke a strong local flavor in his campaign, a parade of high-profile Democrats from across the country rallied to his side in the campaign's closing days. Former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden recorded phone calls endorsing him that were placed to voters.
On the campaign’s last full day, Jones claimed not to be aware of the calls — even as his campaign confirmed them.
In addition to his win over Moore, Jones was celebrating a personal milestone with his wife on Tuesday: their 25th anniversary.
“It’s been a quarter of a century, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without my best friend, partner, and running mate on this journey,” he wrote on Twitter.