COLUMBIA — Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, the surprise Democratic winner in a December special election, endorsed Charleston businessman Phil Noble for South Carolina governor Thursday.
The pair have known each other since 2007, well before Jones received national attention for his defeat of Republican Roy Moore.
"My win was a step — and now the next fight is Phil’s for governor in South Carolina," Jones wrote in an email to Democratic supporters. "I know Phil is a truly principled, progressive leader committed to real reform — something I know is sorely needed in South Carolina’s state government.
"I won my election because I was not a political insider and I challenged the corruption of politics as usual. I know that Phil will win because he is fighting for the same things."
Jones' win gave Alabama its first Democratic U.S. senator in a generation. It also galvanized hopes of Democrats across the country that their party could make progress in the 2018 midterm elections with Republicans dominating Capitol Hill and governors' mansions.
"Doug is clearing a path for reform-minded governors like those in North Carolina, Virginia, and Louisiana," Noble said. "We in South Carolina are itching to join them."
Noble could use the high-profile endorsement in his fight for the Democratic nomination against state Rep. James Smith.
Smith outraised Noble during the end of 2017 in their first quarterly reports since they each entered the race in October. Smith, a Columbia attorney, gathered $548,000, while Noble nabbed $101,000, according to state data released Wednesday.
Smith has the backing of former Vice President Joe Biden and has received endorsements from several key South Carolina Democrats, including former Govs. Dick Riley and Jim Hodges, former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.
Jones endorsement of Noble was expected. In addition to their long friendship, they share ties to the Civil Rights movement in Alabama.
Noble's father was a Presbyterian minister worked to end racism at local institutions while the family lived in Alabama. Jones is known for prosecuting KKK members in the deaths of four young black girls in the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing.
A Democrat has not held the S.C. governor's office in 15 years. Republicans have owned the state's top seat for all but four of the past 31 years.