The GOP for Doug Jones movement is real

Alabama Republicans are doing something they never thought possible: Voting for a Democrat.

Kim Dowdle votes in the August primary. CREDIT: Kim Dowdle
Kim Dowdle votes in the August primary. CREDIT: Kim Dowdle

Kim Dowdle never imagined she would ever vote for a Democrat.

The 43-year-old Alabama resident considers herself a staunch Republican. She voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and still supports the president. But on December 12, she will cast her ballot for Democrat Doug Jones.

The decision to support a Democrat did not come easy. She said she prayed over it for months, debating what God would want. But after she read the Washington Post report detailing four women’s accounts of being sexually assaulted by Roy Moore as young girls, Dowdle made up her mind. The details felt all too familiar. She said it was like God giving her a sign.

When Dowdle was 16-year-old, she went on a date with her then-boyfriend to celebrate their one-year anniversary. The older, college-aged man took her to dinner and then a movie, but she ended up at his house after they arrived late to the theater. She remembers that he brought her a Dr. Pepper and the next thing she knew, she felt dizzy and had to lie down. It wasn’t until later, after she woke up undressed and covered with blood and after her parents rushed her to the emergency room, that she learned he had penetrated her with a double-edge knife, barely missing her organs, and then raped her. She spent nine weeks in a coma and roughly three months in the hospital.

Dowdle said hypnotherapy and her faith helped her to both remember and then process the attack. She considers herself a strong Christian and supported Moore for his values when he refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from outside the courthouse. But when she learned of the accusations against him from young women, she knew she could no longer support him.  

“I have labored over the decision to not vote for a Republican, to not vote for Roy Moore, to not vote for the man who stands for all Christian beliefs supposedly,” Dowdle told ThinkProgress. “It is not a lighthearted decision I’m making. I am voting Doug Jones because I’m a Christian and because I’m a Republican.” 

Dowdle is just one of a growing — yet until December 12 unquantifiable — group of Republican voters who have said that instead of voting of their party’s controversial nominee and instead of supporting a write-in candidate or staying home, will vote for Jones. Through a Facebook page, “Republicans for Doug Jones,” almost 2,000 of them are finding support from like-minded conservatives. Many say that before this year, they would never have considered voting for a Democrat.

Since making her decision, Dowdle said she has met with Jones and his wife. The meeting made her realize how much she shares with Jones, who, like her, is a parent who loves Alabama and hunting. In a state where talking politics can often feel taboo, Dowdle said she has had arguments with friends and family about her decision — recently, a friend called her a “disgrace to the [Republican] Party.” Dowdle said she just explains to them that the GOP is less likely to implode if Jones is elected.

While she was able to still support Trump in 2016, despite the more than a dozen women who have accused him of assault, she explains that Trump “didn’t hide behind religion.”

“He’s not signing bibles in red ink with autographs,” she said. “Roy Moore is, and that’s blasphemy. I don’t know how women are voting for him to be honest. I don’t know how Christian women are voting for him.”

“I can’t imagine anyone with any morals voting for him,” she continued.

Dowdle follows the “Republicans for Jones” Facebook page, started by a Birmingham-area man who is also a registered Republican but who cannot bring himself to support Moore. That man, Steve Crainich, told ThinkProgress that he has recently drifted to the left on social issues, but he still considers himself a Republican. Before the run-off, he told his son that if Moore wins the nomination, he will vote for Jones.

“That night, I told him: ‘I’m so disgusted by what Roy Moore represents, I can do one better,'” he remembers. “That night I created the Facebook page and invited a handful of friends who were in the same thought-process as I was and it got shared and shared and shared from there.”

As of Wednesday, the page has more than 1,700 followers, although there is no way of knowing how many of them are actually Republican voters.

“I don’t agree with everything Jones stands for but in a country of 320 million people, who does?” Crainich, who voted for Trump last year, told ThinkProgress.

CREDIT: Facebook
CREDIT: Facebook

A poll of likely Republican voters released this week found that 71 percent do not believe the young women’s stories about Moore. Dowdle said she has reason to doubt polling in Alabama — she thinks many Republicans are hesitant to share how they really feel. But she takes issue with anyone who doubts the women or questions why it took them decades to speak out.

Dowdle remembers what it felt like to not be believed. While she missed months of high school when she was hospitalized after her rape, one of her teachers refused to let her make up her missed work because she did not believe her story. “She thought I was making it up — that was the 90s and I had a hospital record,” she said.

When her friends and family question the women’s accounts, she said she points out that they did not come forward themselves — the Washington Post asked them to share their stories — and she describes the fears these women may have had of retaliation from a man with so much power in Alabama. 

Some political experts have noted that the biggest barrier between Jones and more Republican support is his position on abortion. The Democrat has said he supports a woman’s right to choose and is opposed to a 20-week abortion ban, unpopular positions in a socially conservative state. While Crainich said he thinks Jones could have more GOP support if he changed that stance, he and others are willing to look past his position on abortion. “I consider myself pretty pro-life but it’s the law of the land so why are we still arguing over it?” Crainich asked.

His opinion is echoed by others, who have been more public with their views. In an column this week headlined “Pro-Life Alabama, It’s Time To Punt,” Dana Hall McCain wrote that the GOP would be better off in 2018 if Moore does not win the seat. And Matthew Tyson, founder of the New Pro Life Movement, wrote in AL.com that “abortion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and any candidate that tells you otherwise is lying.”

The Jones campaign also counts Republican Tracy James, a cousin of of former Alabama Gov. Fob James (R), among its supporters. James once worked on the staff of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and for former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) when he was chairman of the Republican National Committee.

In a video shared by the Jones campaign, James says she is “wholeheartedly” supporting Jones because he will “represent us well in DC.”

“I don’t understand how anyone who describes themself as a conservative could vote for someone so radical,” she said about Moore

While polls are extremely close, Dowdle said that from speaking to her Republican friends and neighbors also planning on voting for Jones, she believes that the Democrat will carry the state.

“There’s a whole lot more of us than people want to admit to out there,” Dowdle said.

This post has been updated with Steve Crainich’s full name after he decided he no longer wanted to use of pseudonym he’d requested because of fears of retaliation.