by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher
Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones, whose election will not be officially certified until the end of the week, is already experiencing concerns and questioning from Black voters about his positions on critical issues, staffing of his Washington D. C. and local offices and remarks he made on a Sunday news show seeming to excuse President Trump’s sexual misconduct with numerous women.
“Black voters, who delivered Jones’ victory want him to be accountable on the issues he will face as Senator and the staffing of his offices. There is nothing wrong with Black voters feeling this way. We need to be awake and aware – after an election and hold candidates that we supported accountable for their promises and statements during the election.” said Attorney Faya Rose Toure, Co-Chair of the ‘Vote or Die Movement’.
Twenty-three community based organizations signed and sent an open letter last week congratulating Jones on his win and calling on him to fulfill specific commitments to the constituents who put him in office on issues of voting rights, health care, criminal justice, ending mass incarceration, living wages and environmental justice.
“The ticker tape for the Jones victory has barely been swept from the floor and we are already seeing him pandering to the right and stepping away from the interests of the people who elected him,” said Latosha Brown, co-founder with Cliff Albright of the Black Voters Matter Fund.
Cliff Albright said, “We are here to let Doug Jones know that the voters in Alabama did not turn out in mass numbers for his personal gain. He was elected to represent the needs of his constituents. Organizers worked hard to galvanize the Black community, and we have every intention to hold him accountable.”
The open letter to Doug Jones has been signed by 20 Alabama organizations serving the Black community and other people of color, including the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Alabama Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice, Center for Fair Housing, Inc (Mobile), The Ordinary People’s Society (TOPS), The Greene County Democrat (this newspaper) and the NAACP chapters of Tuskegee-Macon and Dothan, Alabama.
The letter calls on Jones to adopt intentional methods to hear directly from his constituents like listening sessions, town halls, and people assemblies.
National Civil Rights Groups push Jones for fair staffing
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank for Black elected officials, has signed a letter with other organizations encouraging Jones to hire a diverse Senate staff, which is sadly lacking among Democratic-elected officials.
“The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and 16 other leading civil rights groups sent a letter urging Senator-elect Doug Jones to commit to hiring a staff that reflects his constituents’ racial diversity,” said the letter dated December 19th. “In Alabama, Blacks account for more than 26 percent of the state’s population.
The Joint Center noted that people of color accounted for more 36 percent of the U.S. population but only 7.1 percent of top Senate staffers in Washington, D.C. African Americans account for just over 1 percent of top Democratic U.S. Senate staff in Washington, D.C. and just over 2 percent of top Republican U.S. Senate staff. Senior Staff in these studies is defined as chief of staff, legislative director, communications director, and committee staff director.
Top Senate staffers manage the Senate’s legislative agenda and shape the $3.9 trillion U.S. federal budget. They also oversee the Senate confirmation process for federal judges, cabinet secretaries and U.S. ambassadors.
“Senator-elect Doug Jones has an incredible opportunity to increase diversity among U.S. Senate staff,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center. “The Joint Center and many of our partners stand ready to work with Senator-elect Jones to identify a deep and broad pool of diverse candidates.”
Some of groups that signed the letter include the NAACP, Lawyers for Civil Rights Under Law, the South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship and Training and the National Action Network.
The letter reminded Jones of the so-called “Rooney Rule”, a National Football League policy initiated by Pittsburgh Steelers patriarch Dan Rooney. The rule requires NFL teams to interview racial minority candidates for senior jobs. “As you may know, earlier this year the Senate Democratic Caucus adopted the Rooney Rule, a commitment to interviewing at least one person of color for senior staff positions. We ask that you embrace this caucus rule and interview people of color for senior positions in your respective offices,” the letter states.
Women’s’ issues also raised with Jones
Karen Jones an active member of the Save Ourselves Movement for Democracy and Justice expressed outrage after hearing comments made by Senator-elect Doug Jones on the Sunday morning CNN State of the Union program. Jones in answer to a question from Jake Tapper said he did not support calls by other Democratic Senators that President Trump resign because of sexual harassment allegations made by numerous women and corroborated by Trump’s own “Access Hollywood” tape.
Karen Jones said, “I felt violated. We had worked for Doug Jones, brought him into our churches and community meetings, voted for him in overwhelming numbers and now five days after the Dec. 12 election, he is on TV exonerating President Trump for sexual harassment before he even gets sworn-in as a Senator.”
Jones said she was working with other Alabama women, who supported Doug Jones, to write him a letter asking for a retraction of his statements on sexual misconduct by the President and a clarification of his stand on other critical issues. “After all 98% of Black women voted for Doug Jones and 98% can take him back out if he doesn’t do or act right,” said Karen Jones.