Doug Jones

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones is shown at the Classic Too restaurant in Anniston Friday.

Alabama’s pending ban on almost all abortions doesn’t reflect the real nature of the state, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Birmingham, said in a brief appearance in Anniston Friday.

“This is not really who we are,” he said. “This is an extreme bill.”

Jones, Alabama’s first Democratic senator in 25 years, spoke to a couple of dozen Democratic activists at a fundraiser at Classic Too on Noble Street. Local Democrats initially told The Star that Jones would deliver a speech at the event; the senator’s staff later said the speech was a private event. Jones spoke to a reporter briefly before the closed-door speech began.

Jones said the abortion ban passed by the Alabama Legislature earlier this week — which contains no exceptions for rape or incest and includes felony charges for doctors who perform abortions — is so extreme that even Republicans have criticized it. The bill does allow abortion when the pregnancy poses a “serious health risk” to the woman.

Jones noted that even televangelist Pat Robertson opposed the law. Robertson said Wednesday on his show “The 700 Club” that Alabama had “gone too far” with the bill and would likely see defeat in court. “This is an embarrassment for the state,” Jones said. “It’s a shameful bill.”

Jones said he supports former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. He said he and Biden have known each other for a long time — Biden stumped for Jones during his 2017 Senate special election bid — and was someone Jones trusted. He said he believed Biden has an ability to communicate with a wide variety of audiences.

“Joe doesn’t just talk to people, he listens,” he said.

Biden leads the polls in a crowded Democratic field, but has also faced allegations that he touched women without their consent. The Star asked Jones what he thought Biden would need to do to address those allegations.

“At this point, he will be judged by his actions in the future,” Jones said.

Jones said he wasn’t interested in being anyone’s vice president in 2020.

“I’m running for the Senate,” he said. He noted that with more than 20 Democrats in the presidential race, it could be some time before anyone is in a position to pick a running mate.

“By that time the Senate campaign is going to be well underway and entrenched,” he said.

The crowd for Jones’ speech consisted largely of Democratic activists, including Jacksonville resident Pam Howard and Anniston resident Jim Williams, both of whom attempted to win seats in the Alabama Legislature last year. But said they had no complaints with Senate Democrats’ actions this year — just with their numbers.

“The big problem is that we need more of them,” Williams said.

Dock Russell, a Democratic activist from Talladega County, said he believed Democrats were too focused on President Donald Trump. The president is divisive, he said, but he shouldn’t be able to lead the conversation.

“You’ve got to have something constructive that you want to achieve,” he said.

Jones focused heavily on health care and other non-Trump issues in the 2017 special election, and he won a surprise victory. Local Democrats such as Howard and Williams took a similar tack in 2018. Most of them lost.

Jones in recent weeks has been critical of Trump’s trade war with China, saying that tariffs will likely hurt Alabama farmers and autoworkers. On Friday he said Trump’s decision to put a temporary hold on auto-parts tariffs was good news, but isn’t a solution.

“It’s not good in that it’s still an uncertain world,” he said.

Democrats have also been critical of the Trump administration’s more aggressive moves toward Iran this week. The administration ordered non-essential employees out of the embassy in Iraq this week, citing intelligence indicating Iran could attack through proxies.

Jones said escalating tensions in the region are “very disturbing, very concerning.” He said the Senate will get a briefing on intelligence from the region next week.

Jones is the second 2020 Senate candidate to campaign in Calhoun County. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Mobile,made an appearance before a small group of Republicans last month.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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