Lorraine Parish is back at home in Vineyard Haven, but the energy and enthusiasm from Tuesday’s U.S. Senate victory for Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore in Alabama is still palpable in her voice.
Ms. Parish traveled to Huntsville, Ala., the city where she was born and raised, to work against Mr. Moore. The nation’s attention was drawn to the race because of its importance in the balance of power of the Senate, as well as the attention it brought to sexual assault. Eight women came forward during the campaign to say they were assaulted by Mr. Moore while they were teens.
Ms. Parish has not been politically active previously, but in light of Donald Trump’s presidential victory, she got involved in the group Indivisible.
“I had never worked on a campaign in my life,” she told The Times. “I can’t wait to do another one.”
Ms. Parish had to do some pushing to get involved in this one. Alabama campaign workers were reluctant to take assistance from outsiders for the controversial Senate race. “I understand that, but I’m special because I’m from there,” she said.
She left Alabama as an 18-year-old, going to New York City as a dancer. She was surprised at the jaundiced view of Alabama that George Wallace, the onetime governor and presidential candidate with racist views, perpetuated on all Alabama residents.
“I didn’t realize people in the North thought we were stupid rednecks, racist rednecks. Where I grew up and the people I grew up with were not like that. I never saw any racism in my life, none,” she said.
When hints of her Southern accent would come out, she worried what people would think of her when they asked where she was from. “It was, like, should I say Alabama because of that stigma?” she said.
Ms. Parish had not been back to Alabama since 1994, when her mother died. The campaign and the reputation of her home state were calling her home.
She arrived in Huntsville Saturday, and by Sunday she was out knocking on doors for the campaign, making sure votes for Doug Jones were secure and the voters had rides to the polls.
There were a few funny incidents, like the husband of a Jones supporter who didn’t want a sign up when his wife’s friends came over for afternoon tea. “We’re going to take it in and then we’ll put it out when they leave,” he told Ms. Parish.
In another neighborhood, a black man declined a sign, but quietly whispered he was supporting Doug Jones. “It was obvious his neighbors were Roy Moore supporters,” she said.
Ms. Parish described the thrill of being at the party for Mr. Jones after the polls closed. It was in an old elementary school that had been renovated into a restaurant. There was a huge flat-screen TV on the wall, but many people huddled around smartphones with an app that tracked votes in real time. As she stood side by side with her new friends watching the returns come in, it seemed that Roy Moore had a big lead early on, but those in the crowd who knew the counties better, and the ones still to be counted, remained hopeful.
“Then it got to 13,000 Moore’s ahead. Then it got to 3,000 Moore was ahead. We’re looking around. We looked at the app and said, ‘He might do it, he might do it.’ And then it got to be neck and neck, and my back was to the TV, and my friend Janet says, ‘It flipped.’ You should have heard the crowd.”
For those who know college football, it was like being at an Auburn-Alabama football game, Ms. Parish said. “It was tied and you get to the last 30 seconds and there’s a touchdown. That’s what it was like.”
Back at her friend’s house, they watched in disbelief as Roy Moore refused to concede the race. They didn’t let his attempt to “burst everyone’s bubble” take them down from the euphoria of the victory. “It was so exciting. I hardly slept while I was there,” Ms. Parish said.
Now her focus turns to the midterm elections next year. She’s a new political volunteer in search of a campaign.
“This is happening, and this is what it’s going to take for all of us to get energized and get out there,” she said. “Every single person can make a difference now. It’s all going to add up.”