“He’s a guy who’s going to be true to himself,” said John Anzalone, a Birmingham-based Democratic pollster. “Authenticity is what sells in a place like Alabama.”
But there’s also little question that Mr. Jones hit the political jackpot with his special election in 2017 by facing Roy S. Moore, an already-controversial Republican opponent who became all but radioactive after charges of sexual assault against underage girls. Even with that baggage, Mr. Jones only beat Mr. Moore by about 20,000 votes.
A number of Republican officials in the state, including Rep. Bradley Byrne and Alabama State Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, are considering challenging Mr. Jones next year. None have the liabilities of Mr. Moore, who motivated a surge of black Democratic voters while prompting some Alabama Republicans to cross party lines and others to stay home from the polls.
On top of those local challenges, Mr. Jones will also be running against the backdrop of the 2020 presidential election, a contest that will both highlight the national Democratic platform and bring out conservative voters eager to support the president.
Even some of his supporters don’t expect to be represented by Mr. Jones for much longer.
“Senator Jones, bless his heart, he’ll be a one-term senator,” said Sheila Pressnell, 61, as she walked through a Huntsville shopping center popular with employees of NASA and other government agencies. “The only reason he got it was because he was up against a child predator.”
In the interview, Mr. Jones said he is seeking bipartisan solutions to the shutdown, saying the debate “is just nothing but political noise right now” and blaming both parties for the stalemate.
Republicans from his state have taken a starkly different approach.
“The president is not going to blink, and he shouldn’t,” said Senator Richard C. Shelby, Jones’s Republican colleague in the Senate, adding that he would tell furloughed federal workers to “get your Democrat friends to the table and negotiate with us.”