What was unthinkable only a mere few weeks ago has happened: The voters of Alabama elected a Democrat to the United States Senate for the first time since 1992. Doug Jones, the attorney behind the successful prosecution of the Ku Klux Klansmen who murdered four African American girls in the 1965 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, walked away the victor with 49.9 percent of the vote to Roy Moore’s 48.4 percent. A total of 22,819 voters, or 1.7 percent, opted to write in another candidate. Those write-in ballots proved critical to the Democratic win.

A report by the New York Times provided these numbers and some of the facts presented in this article.

A special election, not a referendum

The Special Election of December 12 was never meant to be an unofficial resolution on the Trump Administration, nor a real-time expression of the #MeToo campaign. However, that is what it turned into thanks to a perfect storm of contributing factors. The rather perfunctory election was called after Attorney General Jeff Sessions vacated his seat earlier this year to take up his post within the Trump Administration. Luther Strange was appointed to represent the State of Alabama until the election itself could be held. During the primaries, Luther Strange had been the assumed favorite, endorsed by both President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.

But former White House advisor Steve Bannon promoted his own preferred candidate, Roy Moore, and he was eventually chosen over Strange during the September 26 runoff primary.

A controversial candidate

Roy Moore has always been a controversial figure in Alabama politics, having been removed from his seat on the state supreme court not once, but twice.

He also famously refused to comply with a court order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse’s public grounds in what was considered a clear violation of the separation of church and state. He has also been very outspoken in his disdain for LGBTQ rights, women’s involvement in politics, and more recently his remarks that slavery was the ideal time period in American history and that the country would be better off if the amendments after the first ten included in the Bill of Rights were rescinded.

These amendments would ostensibly include the abolition of slavery (13th), the assurance that citizens of all races be given the right to vote (15th), the direct election of US senators by popular vote (17th), and the equal voting rights granted to women (19th).

The Washington Post exposé

However, the real turning point in Roy Moore’s campaign occurred when the Washington Post published their now-infamous exposé of the Republican candidate’s propensity to pursue underage girls as a 30-something district attorney in the 1970s. The statute of limitations for each of the nine women have long since run out, but the court of public opinion is a different matter. Many conservative voters, including Alabama’s other Republican senator, Richard Shelby, were uncomfortable casting their ballot for an alleged child molester.

Based on the available polling data, enough Republicans voted for the Democratic candidate, wrote in another name, or merely stayed home to ensure a victory for Doug Jones. In addition to the depressed Republican numbers, voter turnout was especially high and markedly supportive of Doug Jones in the African American areas of the state. For example, African American women, making up 18 percent of the voting demographic, went for the Democrat by an astounding 98 percent. Conversely, white men favored the Republican by 72 percent.

Major Upset for Republicans and Democrats

This special election, which would undoubtedly have been won by establishment Republican Luther Strange, has now cost the Republicans one seat of their razor edge majority in the Senate.

And it has also opened up a possible route to Democratic control of the Senate come 2018. Roy Moore proved to be such an unpalatable option for so many faithful Republican voters that a pro-choice Democrat was able to win in the deeply red conservative state of Alabama.