GOP faces new legislative challenges following Democratic win in Alabama

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Democrats claim a major victory after their candidate, Doug Jones, won Alabama's special election for a U.S. Senate seat.

Now Republican leaders say it's time to get down to business and prove they can effectively lead heading into 2018 midterm elections.

For the first time in a quarter century, Alabama voted to send a Democrat to the Senate.

"He will be a uniting force for Alabama, said Rep. Terri Sewell, the lone Democrat currently in Alabama's Congressional delegation.

She campaigned for Doug Jones in recent weeks and told us in an interview before the big night that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore would create too many distractions in light of allegations of sexual misconduct with teen girls.

"I need a partner who’s going to roll up his sleeves and get to work day one, whose character won’t be called into question," said Sewell.

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner - who leads the National Republican Senate Committee - previously said Moore would be unfit to serve. Now he calls on Jones to vote with the GOP, as Alabama is a conservative-leaning state.

Moving forward, Gardner says the test now is for Republicans to pass tax reform and other key items on their agenda.

“What we have to do is deliver to the American people," said Gardner. "That’s ultimately what will drive people’s votes in November.”

But in the first year since President Trump took office, Republicans failed on fulfilling campaign promises like repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Legislative victories now become more challenging as their slim majority in the Senate is whittled down to 51 members.

“It’s not good news for the Republicans," said Gary Nordlinger, George Washington University professor.

Nordlinger says while a Democratic victory in deep red Alabama can serve as a wake-up call to the GOP, he expects Jones will need to be somewhat moderate if wants to remain in office beyond 2020.

“If he follows the typical Democratic voting pattern in the Senate, I don’t think he’ll make it but if he really stands out as a true independent voice for Alabama it could be a very interesting model," said Nordlinger.

A spokesman for GOP Senator Luther Strange says there's no date yet for his last day on the job.

Election results from precincts first need to be certified and that process could take weeks.

Roy Moore has not yet conceded, saying “when a vote is this close, it’s not over”.

For weeks, we have requested to interview Strange and the other Alabama Senator, Richard Shelby. Repeated outreaches have received no response.

In statements released after the outcome of Tuesday's race, the current Alabama Senators said the voters have spoken and they congratulated Jones.

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