Alabama Senator Doug Jones discusses plans moving forward

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- The first Democrat to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama in 25 years sits down with Gray Television Washington News Bureau Correspondent Alana Austin before his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday. He discusses his plans to move Alabama forward after a divisive election.

Click the video above to watch the full interview.

Here is a transcript of the conversation:

Alana Austin: “This was a divisive election, one of the most divisive elections in Alabama state history. What are your plans to help unite the people of Alabama?”

Doug Jones: “Well, I’ll be getting back to Alabama. I want to talk to people. I’ve said during the campaign, I mean, everyone knew this was going to be a tough campaign and there are people voting for you, there are going to be people voting against you. But my job now is as everyone’s United States Senator. It’s not just the people that voted for me, and so I plan on reaching out and plan on traveling around the state, getting back to Alabama because that’s where I think the work of the Senator is really in Alabama, not just casting votes. So I’m gonna reach out and touch and talk to people and make sure they talk to me.”

Alana: “What sort of communication have you had so far with Senator Shelby or other Republicans?”

Jones: “Well, we’ve talked. Senator Shelby and I talked on the phone right after the election. I saw him in New Orleans for the game the other night, had a great conversation. I’m really looking forward to working with him. I’ve known Richard Shelby since he was a state senator back in the 70s and I was in college. So I think we’ll have a very good working relationship. I’m going to lean on him for counsel and advice. He’s been in this body since 1986 and I know can be of tremendous help to me, and I think together we can be a tremendous benefit for the state.”

Alana: “What sort of specific issues do you think you might see some common ground on with Senator Shelby?”

Jones: “Well, I think that hopefully the CHIP program. We haven’t talked about issues just yet. But I think there’ll be a lot of issues with regard to the budget, hopefully the CHIP program, the child health program. But certainly on the budget. Alabama is, you know, gets a lot of federal dollars coming in for the defense industry and I know that’s something he is keenly tuned into. I want to be there with him to help. I think that between the two of us and our respective caucuses, we can really bring some good to Alabama.”

Alana: “I know you mentioned traveling all around the state of Alabama, but there are some concerns that, you know, folks who are from the northern part of the state, like you and Senator Shelby, how do you make sure that the folks in the southern part of the state still feel like they are being supported?”

Jones: “Sure, well, we’re going to have a strong staff down there. We’re putting together a state staff that we’re going to have a strong presence in south Alabama. And I’ll get down there, I mean the Mobile port and the Alston shipping plant are all very important. You’ve got and all through the Wiregrass, the business that are there. We’re going to be down there, we’re going to be traveling down there. I’ll be there but I’m certainly obviously going to have to rely on staff a lot. They’re going to be making their presence known and I want people to likewise come to see them. Don’t be strangers to the office or to call in. We want to make sure that our presence is known throughout Alabama, not just the northern part.”

Alana: “Whether for the right reasons, or the wrong reasons, Alabama’s image - there were certain perceptions that were negative about your state over this past election cycle and how do you help kind of repair that image, moving forward?”

Jones: “I think the people of Alabama did that. I don’t think I have to do that. I think the people of Alabama did that in this election, did that themselves when they rejected the divisiveness, they rejected the kind of politics that people across this country are now saying: we want people that can get things done. We don’t want just the chaos up there. So I think it’s up to me now to kind of uphold that, and not embarrass folks by any stretch. But I think the people of Alabama made that choice to begin with and send a loud and clear message across the country.”

Alana: “We have not heard a concession to date from your opponent. Have you spoken with him at all? And what do you make of him not conceding so far?”

Jones: “I haven’t spoken to him. I don’t make anything about it.”

Alana: “OK. Do you think that it’s his duty to concede?”

Jones: “I’m not... You know, look, he’s got to be who he is. At this point, I’m going to do - I’m going to get sworn in at noon and that’s all that matters to me because I’m going to get sworn in and I’m going to hit the ground running to try to do all I can for the people of Alabama, including all of those folks that voted for him and folks that stayed home.”

Alana: “And just lastly, speaking of that, there were Republicans that either sat out or voted for you, and how can you build the trust of those Republicans that voted for you only because of the Moore accusations?”

Jones: “Well, you know, in every election, there are people that vote for someone, there are people that vote against someone. Again, my job is to represent everyone and so in order to do that, I’ve got to travel, I’ve got to get my staff out there, listening to people, understanding what is important those issues. We’re going to be talking to people, we’re going to try to have those dialogues about what I call those kitchen table issues, ever since we started this campaign. I think when you can do that, you can build the trust. Not everybody in the state of Alabama is going to agree with me on everything, but as long as we can talk these issues through, I think we’ll find the common ground necessary to move the state forward.”

Alana: “And just lastly, about CHIP funding, you already mentioned this, but the impact on Alabama’s budget, Medicaid funding, where do you stand and do you think that the President is in line with your views?”

Jones: “Well, I think the President said, you know, for Congress - this is up to you and I think that there’s a legal argument to be made for that, and I think Congress should step up. I’ve said that, you know, throughout the summer and even in my victory speech. Congress should step up. I’m hoping that I can work with folks to do just that and fund that CHIP program going forward.”

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