Tuberville backs Trump’s unsupported cheating claim
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s incoming Republican U.S. Sen, Tommy Tuberville, who made loyalty to President Donald Trump a central theme of his campaign, is backing Trump’s unsupported claim of election fraud.
Tuberville, who defeated incumbent Sen. Doug Jones Tuesday, told The Associated Press this week that one of his first goals will be to work across the partisan aisle and establish relationships with Democrats.
But he also backed Trump’s claim of election fraud by writing on social media that “the election results are out of control.”
“It’s like the whistle has blown, the game is over, and the players have gone home, but the referees are suddenly adding touchdowns to the other team’s side of the scoreboard. I’d challenge that as a coach, and President Trump is right to challenge that as a candidate,” Tuberville wrote.
His campaign manager, Paul Shashy, declined to elaborate on the social media statement.
Trump on Thursday night made allegations that Democrats were trying to steal the election but did not back up his claims with any details or evidence. State and federal officials have not reported any instances of widespread voter fraud. One of Trump’s main complaints, that counting spilled over past Election Day, is meritless. No presidential election has had all the votes counted the same day, and there is no law or even expectation that that should be the case. The surge in mailed ballots and the high turnout have made the process slower than usual in some, but not all, cases.
Alabama Democratic Party Chair Chris England responded that Tuberville’s comments were irresponsible.
“Votes were still being counted in Alabama today just like in many places all over country. We need to count all of the legally cast votes which is exactly what is going on. There is no conspiracy here. This is our American Democracy in action,” England said.
Alabama’s Republican governor and secretary of state took much more measured tones in discussing the ongoing vote counts.
“Every legal vote should be counted, and all sides should have the ability to observe the process. The courts are there to apply the rule of law and ensure we had a fair and free election,“Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement. Secretary of State John Merrill said the nation needs uniform election procedures.
Tuberville made fealty to Trump a centerpiece of his campaign, vowing in his victory speech to fight against Democratic leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He told “liberal” out-of-state donors to Jones that they could “go to hell and get a job,” a reference to Jones’ attack ad showing Tuberville using the phrase to respond to student hecklers after leaving a coaching job.
Tuberville now faces the prospect of a Democratic president and serving in a closely split U.S. Senate. The balance of Senate power could be determined by undecided Georgia races.
Tuberville struck a more bipartisan tone in a Thursday interview with The Associated Press.
“I ran as a conservative Republican. I won as a conservative Republican. But now that I’ve won, I’m a senator for everybody in the state of Alabama,” Tuberville said. “I’m going to go around and listen to people. I don’t care who you voted for.”
Tuberville said he sees aspects of coaching in his new job, such as the relationship-building required for recruiting and building a staff of specialty experts because “you never want to be the smartest person in the room.” He said one of his first goals in the next six months is to build relationships on both sides of the political aisle in Washington D.C.
“The whole thing is about going up and selling yourself, not just to Republicans, but to Democrats. Get them to trust you. I’m going to tell them what I believe. I’m not going to waiver from it, but I’m also going to listen,” Tuberville said.
Asked to name priorities, Tuberville said education is a priority, saying he spoke with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. He also said the state needs to improve technology infrastructure and high-speed internet access.
Tuberville, who once came under fire from Jones for saying in March that he didn’t have a clue how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, has backed mask-wearing, although few attendees appeared to don them during Tuberville’s victory night celebration. Asked about it, Tuberville said, “there are times when you are not able to do that” but added, “I am for wearing a mask.”
He criticized government-mandated shut downs, saying that people need to get back to work.
Tuberville said Thursday that he had spoken with both Ivey and Jones in preparing for the role. He acknowledged something of a learning curve as he tries to quickly prepare for office and expressed surprise at the size of Jones’ senatorial staff.
“I’m trying to get my legs underneath me and start hiring folks. I talked to Sen. Jones today. I said how many folks who working for you. He said 55. Holy crap.”
He said Jones was helpful and cordial.
On the campaign trail, Tuberville was regular greeted by a sounding “Coach!” from people eager to meet him. He said people can continue to call him that instead of his new job title of senator if they prefer.
“Call me ‘Coach’ as much as you can,” Tuberville said after being called senator-elect. “When I’m home in the state of Alabama people know me, and I think I can relate better if they call me ‘Coach.’”