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Alabama candidates spar over outside group's role in runoff

By Felicia Sonmez

Six weeks after Alabamans went to the polls in the state's primary, they'll vote again Tuesday in a runoff to decide the Republican nominee for governor -- and the result could be a surprising upset.

Bradley Byrne, a former state chief of community colleges and a former state senator, is facing state Rep. Robert Bentley. Byrne finished first in the June 1 primary with 28 percent of the vote, while Bentley narrowly edged out businessman Tim James -- son of former governor Fob James -- for the second-place spot.

While Byrne finished more than 13,000 votes ahead of Bentley in June, recent public polling shows that the onetime front-runner has slipped into second place and now trails Bentley by as much as 20 points. The winner will face state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks (D) in November.

The turnaround has come amid spirited campaigning on both sides. Both camps began airing their closing TV ads over the weekend: Byrne's is a positive spot touting him as a Christian conservative and "family man," although it also takes a shot at the "special interests" that are "stealing our primary." Bentley's highlights his promise not to "take a salary until Alabama reaches full employment."

Of the two candidates, Byrne has enjoyed greater support from the GOP establishment: He's backed by Reps. Jo Bonner, Mike Rogers and Spencer Bachus; Gov. Bob Riley announced on Friday that he will also vote for Byrne. Bentley, meanwhile, has been backed by several of James's former campaign staffers (although James himself has not made an endorsement).

Byrne has also outraised his rival by more than three to one: He has collected more than $2 million in contributions, while Bentley has taken in $621,000.

Bentley's campaign contends that the race's recent shift in momentum is because of Byrne's establishment backing.

"It's an anti-establishment year, and Bradley Byrne decided he wanted to identify his campaign with the Republican establishment," Bentley spokesperson Bryan Sanders said, adding that voters are "going to see one of the most extraordinary upsets of the 2010 election cycle" Tuesday.

But Byrne's camp contends that outside groups -- the Alabama Education Association in particular -- are responsible for the change in the candidate's fortunes. Byrne communications director Marty Sullivan said that the AEA has run $2 million in attack ads slamming Byrne over the past several weeks; the group has also been encouraging Democrats to vote in the open election.

Bentley has "moved up in the polls because he didn't go negative," Sullivan said, adding that if Bentley wins, Democrats "will have elected the Democratic nominee, and they will have elected the Republican nominee."

(Worth noting: Last week, Marengo County Republican Party Chairman Andy Renner was forced to step down following revelations that he'd been working with the AEA in an effort to sink Byrne's candidacy.)

Bentley's camp disputed the idea that it's been working with the AEA or with Democrats. "Nothing could be further from the truth," Sanders said, adding that Byrne "has been consumed with the AEA" from the start.

Bentley also took a shot at Byrne as the candidate more in tune with Democrats, noting that Byrne is a "former Democrat trial lawyer who voted for Bill Clinton" and became a Republican in the late 1990s.

Given the Alabama Republican Party's open runoff (which allows Democrats who voted in the June 1 Democratic primary to vote in the GOP runoff), Democrats may indeed play a role in Tuesday's race -- the question for both candidates is how much.

By Felicia Sonmez  |  July 12, 2010; 1:53 PM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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Next: David Vitter's primary: Another nuisance for the incumbent, a boon for Democrats


Looks like Toomey and Coats are doing quite well. Not what some of our dear bloggers expected.

Posted by: Brigade | July 12, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse


Section 342, which declares that race and gender employment ratios, if not quotas, must be observed by private financial institutions that do business with the government. In a major power grab, the new law inserts race and gender quotas into America's financial industry.

In addition to this bill's well-publicized plans to establish over a dozen new financial regulatory offices, Section 342 sets up at least 20 Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion. This has had no coverage by the news media and has large implications.


Posted by: FlowersOfPeace | July 12, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

unaccounted, I don't think Polanski can run for office in this country. He holds Polish and French citizenry so you will have to relocate if you were looking forward to being represented by him. He also liked to take pictures of young women with their clothes off.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 12, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

breath slowly and deeply, dori!

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 12, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Margaret, concerning your comment in the previous thread:

moonbat/zouk/present comes back from a long weekend on the yacht with his model wife and it turns out he was thinking about drindl the whole time.

Does the model/missus know about this?

Posted by: margaretmeyers | July 12, 2010 1:49 PM |


You've just set off an asthma attack. I still can't stop laughing.

Thanks for your consideration.

Posted by: dcgrasso1 | July 12, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Young Boozer had some very cruel parents.

Posted by: drindl | July 12, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

George Wallace Jr was also a Dem. He almost won the 2nd when Rep. Bill Dickinson retired in 1992.

Posted by: joeyjoejoe | July 12, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Alabama GOP politics has been fun this year. Bradley Byrne was supposed to win the Gov nomination easily, with maybe only Roy Moore having a shot at beating him. Bentley has come out of nowhere. Also, the Griifth race heated up quickly at the end, and don't forget about Young Boozer.

Posted by: joeyjoejoe | July 12, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

More sharron can't shut up:

'During a recent appearance on conservative host Alan Stock’s radio show, a caller asked Republican Sharron Angle, who’s running for Nevada’s U.S. Senate seat against Harry Reid (D), “if she would have intervened on behalf of MGM Resorts’ CityCenter complex the way Senator Reid did. In 2009, CityCenter experienced financial struggles during its construction. The project’s bankruptcy appeared imminent. Reid called several banks on MGM Resorts’ behalf, and the project averted bankruptcy.” Angle told the caller that she would not have done so. A local news reporter tried to follow-up with her after the interview:

Angle also expanded on her comments regarding CityCenter. “It’s kind of like shifting the chairs on the Titanic,” she said. “You only shift jobs from one place to another, when we know that when we put those jobs at City Center, it was jobs that were taken away or business that was taken away from other areas. So, really it actually injured the economy of other businesses.”

Her response has generated significant controversy in Nevada. A spokesperson for MGM Resorts responded, “Ms. Angle’s statement is ridiculous on its face. Senator Reid’s support of our significant private investment in Las Vegas came during our company’s darkest hour. He saved, not only 10,000 construction jobs and 12,000 permanent private sector jobs at CityCenter, but the jobs of 50,000 employees at our other resorts that would have been jeopardized had our company followed CityCenter into bankruptcy.”

Posted by: drindl | July 12, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Wrong party, zouk. Polansky is accused of the nal rape of a child. Democrats mostly get it for marital infidenlity .. when it comes to the wierd stuff, it's Republicans all the way. See Craig, Vitter, Foley, Santorum ...

Posted by: Noacoler | July 12, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Roman Polanski was declared a free man on Monday after Switzerland rejected a U.S. request to extradite him to be sentenced for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.

Now he is free to run for gore's old seat. Or Edwards. Or clinton. Or spitzer. Or...... there are just so many options in the Dem party for someone who knows how to "beat the rap".

Posted by: present-and-unaccounted-for | July 12, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

maybe not so much, Andy -- from the WaPo today:

"MONTGOMERY, ALA. -- For a first-term Democrat in a solidly Republican district, Rep. Bobby N. Bright did something curious on a recent weekday morning while talking to a Kiwanis Club breakfast: He spoke of the goodness of federal spending.

Even more curious, perhaps, is that his audience didn't mind.

Bright, 57, a dry-witted former mayor of Montgomery, on paper looks like one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress: a winning margin in 2008 of just 1,700 votes, a district that John McCain won that year with 63 percent and a constituency deeply unhappy with President Obama and Democrats in Congress.

But Bright is well-liked in southeastern Alabama's 2nd District. He is running ahead by double digits in the most recent public polls against either of the Republicans he could face in the fall. And he's doing so without riding the anti-government wave sweeping the nation. In some ways, he's practicing the opposite: rattling off the schools, bridges, unpaved roads and sewer systems that need funding; celebrating the jobs that two big local military installations bring; promoting earmarks for agricultural research. It's a reminder that in some places, even among conservative voters, "government" and "spending" are not necessarily dirty words. "

Posted by: drindl | July 12, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

This is one thing that Manchin should be careful to think about in West Virginia

I really do not have any inside info - but one quote which was on the Fix said the Special Primary might be held this November.

If this is true, the Special General Election to replace Byrd would be sometime after November - maybe January or February.

If this happens - it would invite massive amounts of outside groups to enter the fray and hit the airwaves of West Virginia.

And it isn't going to sound like John Denver.

If the control of the US Senate is up for grabs - which is not outside the realm of possibility - it will be a NIGHTMARE.

Just thinking ahead............


Posted by: FlowersOfPeace | July 12, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Brain not present and unaccounted for -

Gibbs is just trying to raise an alarm in order to try to get the fundraising of the democrats up.

There can be little other reason behind that statement.

The statement does indicate that perhaps the democrats are struggling with fundraising, which is interesting.

Ironically, such statements also help the Republican fundraising.

So Gibbs is indicating that the democrats have real money problems.


Posted by: FlowersOfPeace | July 12, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Chief of community colleges?

Posted by: DDAWD | July 12, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Confirmation from President Obama’s own spokesman that indeed the sky is falling. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Robert Gibbs declared:

I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of seats that will be up, a lot of contested seats. I think people are going to have a choice to make in the fall. But I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control.

And in his Washington Post column, E.J. Dionne Jr. – as reliable a liberal supporter of Obama as you will find — offers the same warning:

If the midterm elections were held now, Republicans would likely take control of the House of the Representatives. It’s as hard these days to find a Democrat who’s not alarmed as it is to find a Cleveland Cavaliers fan who’s cheering for LeBron James.

The explanations Democrats and liberals offer for why they are in this predicament (a “communications” problem, a “false narrative” that has taken hold, the failure to spend more money on the stimulus package, a bad economy that is entirely unconnected to Obama’s policies, and so forth) are flawed and at times comical. Still, the fact that some of Obama’s strongest supporters now acknowledge the depth of opposition to his policies and the battering that awaits Democrats is, I suppose, a good thing. Reality trumping self-delusion usually is. But anticipating a political drubbing is one thing; being on the receiving end of it will be quite another

Posted by: present-and-unaccounted-for | July 12, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

This seems like another case of the GOP snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. Bentley it seems is the weaker general election candidate, which may help the Democrat (he will need all the help he can get).

Posted by: AndyR3 | July 12, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

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