For Tina Johnson, Roy Moore’s defeat is just beginning to sink in.
Johnson, one of the women who accused Moore of sexual misconduct as he ran for U.S. Senate in Alabama, had never voted before Tuesday.
Watching returns with family and friends in Gadsden, Ala., she was nervous about Democrat Doug Jones’ chances.
“I was biting my nails and praying a lot,” she said on Thursday. “And [God] heard me.”
Johnson was shocked as results showed Jones nearly 21,000 votes ahead of his GOP rival. The overwhelmingly Republican state has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in 25 years.
“It’s a great feeling to know that we were vindicated,” Johnson said. “I thought the people of Alabama would not have enough sense to do the right thing. Maybe there’s hope for us yet.”
Johnson says Moore grabbed her buttocks when she visited his law office in 1991, when she was 28.
Another woman, Leigh Corfman, said Moore molested her when she was 14 and he was 32.
Beverly Young Nelson, 56, accused Moore last month of sexually assaulting her when she was a 16-year-old waitress at a Gadsden restaurant. She said she had no doubt that the women’s accusations played a role in the election.
Moore, 70, denies all of the allegations.
“I believe I was believed,” Nelson said Thursday in a telephone interview.
“My son said ‘Mom, turn on the radio,’” she said. “I was like, ‘Are you serious?’”
In the last two months of the campaign, as women came forward with allegations, Moore accused them of lying.
“The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal — even inflict physical harm — if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me,” Moore posted on Twitter last month.
At a news conference with her attorney, Gloria Allred, last month, Nelson alleged that Moore sexually assaulted her in a car outside a Gadsden restaurant where she waited tables. He groped her breasts, tried to shove her face into his crotch and bruised her neck, she said.
Nelson showed her 1977 Southside High School yearbook with an inscription she said was written by Moore: “To a sweeter, more beautiful girl I could not say, ‘Merry Christmas’ 1977. Love, Roy Moore.”
Moore denied ever meeting her and suggested the yearbook signature was forged.
Last week, Nelson admitted she added some words — “12-22-1977 Old Hickory House” and “D.A.” — under Moore’s signature.
Tuesday’s razor-thin result left Nelson feeling better about her decision to come forward, and hopeful that Alabama had begun something of a reckoning.
“I feel like I don’t have to hide anymore,” she said. “I believe that Alabama is really on its way to making some major changes that the state has needed for years.”
Johnson was also optimistic, even though she marveled that Moore got 48.4% of the vote.
“I live in Alabama, so I can say about Alabamians, they’re really ignorant about certain things,” she said. “That’s the truth. These people following Roy Moore are more of a cult than a Republican Party.”
Johnson did not exempt herself from criticism, noting she had spent her life paying too little attention to politics.
“Don’t be my age and vote for the first time,” she said. “I never voted, because I didn’t think it would make a difference. I was part of the problem.”
In the past, when she spotted Moore on TV, Johnson said she would have “a sick feeling” because she hadn’t stood up to him.
“I just went with the flow,” she said. “I tried to put a wall up. I was scared. ... Now I can say ‘Hey look, I don’t have to worry no more.’ Speaking out does help and it is worth it in the end.”
The experience taught her to be more engaged, she said. She now hopes to build a social media campaign, with the hashtag #StandUp, to persuade men to support women.
“I’m just a small woman from Alabama, really, that no one’s ever heard of,” she said. “But it doesn’t matter. We have a voice.”
Jarvie is a special correspondent.