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'Outsider' Beats 'Establishment' In Alabama GOP Gubernatorial Runoff

Jul 14, 2010

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State Rep. Robert Bentley, a relatively unknown Republican who finished a surprising second in the June 1 Alabama gubernatorial primary and made it to the runoff, is now the GOP nominee for governor.

In yesterday's runoff, Bentley easily defeated former college chancellor Bradley Byrne, who had led in the initial primary and who was backed by a who's who of Alabama Republican politics, and who was also portrayed by Bentley as the candidate of the status quo.  Bentley got 56 percent of the vote.

There are many explanations for what happened.  An anti-establishment sentiment.  Bentley's promise that he wouldn't accept a salary until Alabama's unemployment situation improves.  Byrne was also the target of a tough, multi-million dollar ad campaign by the Alabama Education Association, who made Byrne pay for his campaigning against the influence of the state's teacher organization.  And since there is no registration by party in Alabama, any Democrat who voted in the June primary could to vote in the GOP runoff — a factor seemingly to Bentley's advantage.  But there is no evidence of any get-out-the-vote effort organized by Democrats to defeat Byrne.

Bentley now faces Ron Sparks, the state Agriculture Commissioner, who is the Democratic gov. nominee.

Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, could not run again because of term limits.  He backed Byrne in the runoff.

Two congressional runoffs of note:

In the 2nd District, Montgomery City Councilmember Martha Roby easily won the Republican nomination, defeating Tea Party favorite Rick Barber.  Roby will take on freshman Rep. Bobby Bright (D) in November.

And in the 7th District, vacated by Democratic gov. hopeful Artur Davis, the winner of the Democratic runoff was attorney Terri Sewell.  In this overwhelmingly Democratic district, Sewell is heavily favored to become the state's first African-American woman elected to Congress.

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