PHOTO: According to the most recent polls, Tim James and Bradley Byrne are the front runners in tomorrow’s Alabama gubernatorial primary. State Rep. Robert Bradley has been spending heavily on TV and Roy Moore has over 90% name identification. Almost 30% of GOP voters are still undecided.
Alabama voters go to the polls on Tuesday, and all eyes are on the gubernatorial primary. The state has voted Republican in five of the last six gubernatorial elections and Gov. Bob Riley (R) is stepping down after two terms because of term limits.
Governor Bob Riley (R) Retires
In 2002, Riley, 65, narrowly defeated incumbent Don Siegelman (D) in what was the closest gubernatorial election in state history. Riley won by 3000 votes and was re-elected with 58% in 2006 when he defeated the Democratic Lieutenant Governor.
Riley is leaving office after seeing the creation of over 150,000 jobs, and he is the first governor in over 70 years to sign an income tax cut into law. The Governor’s biggest setback occurred at the start of his tenure in 2003 when his $1.2 billion Amendment One tax plan was defeated by state voters.
Leading the opposition was Riley’s former primary opponent, Tim James, who is once again seeking the nomination. During Riley’s tenure both Honda and Hyundai expanded auto manufacturing in Alabama and all Mercedes Benz SUV’s are constructed in the state.
The departing Governor can also claim credit for an additional 29,000 jobs being created by German-based ThyssenKrupp steel manufacturing company. They are constructing a $4.2 billion plant which will be opening this year. Riley is also a firm opponent of gambling and has clashed with the GOP state Attorney General in an effort to rid the state of slot machines.
Republicans: Bradley Byrne, Tim James, Robert Bradley and Roy Moore
This year there is no clear frontrunner in either party. Many supporters of the retiring Governor are backing Bradley Byrne, a former State Senator who previously served as chancellor of the state’s two-year college system. Byrne, 55, an attorney, has raised $4.7 million. Byrne has been endorsed by most of the state’s newspapers as well as former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) and former Rep. Jack Edwards (R-AL).
Tim James, 48, has never held elective office. He is the businessman son of former two term Gov. Fob James, and was defeated by Riley in the 2002 primary. James has raised $4.4 million, but $3.2 million of that is in the form of loans to his campaign.
James has received national publicity because of his tough ads opposing illegal immigration which have received over 800,000 online hits. The Alabama driver’s license exam is now available in eight languages and James wants to change that to English only. He has been endorsed by Rep. Robert Aderholt, former Rep. Sonny Callahan and Americans for Tax Reform. Many organizers of the 2008 Huckabee presidential campaign in Alabama are now supporting James.
Another major candidate is Roy Moore, 63, who seven years ago was removed as the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. He was kicked out after defying a judicial order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments which he had erected on the court’s lawn. Moore unsuccessfully challenged Riley in the 2006 GOP primary and was defeated by a 67% to 33% margin. This year his contributions are far below the totals received by Byrne and James. Moore has been accused of advocating a “Christians only theocracy.”
For example, he said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to the US House of Representatives, should have been barred from sitting in Congress. Moore believes a Muslim can not honestly take the oath of office because the “Qur’an did not allow for religions other than Islam to exist.” The Judge went on to say that “common sense alone dictates that in the midst of a war with Islamic terrorists we should not place someone in a position of great power who shares their doctrine”.
State Rep. Robert Bentley is a medical doctor who has been financing his own campaign. While the media has been focusing on Byrne and James, Bentley has been rising in the pools. A Research 2000 poll conducted in mid May had Byrne in front with 29%, Moore at 23%, James with 17% and Bentley 9%. 30% of Republicans are still undecided and a July 13th runoff will occur between the top two candidates. In the general election Byrne has a 17% lead over the top Democrat.
Democrats: Rep. Artur Davis vs. Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks
Blacks represent nearly half of the state’s Democratic primary voters, so it is not surprising that the first African American gubernatorial candidate could be nominated. Rep. Artur Davis is black and has served on Capitol Hill since 2002. He is a Harvard graduate and is the first well funded black gubernatorial candidate in Alabama history. He has raised $2.6 million.
He is running to the right of State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is white. Davis is the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus who voted against Obama’s health care reform package. He endorsed Obama in 2008, but when the President visited the state this year, Davis would not appear with him.
The surprise is that four well respected black organizations have endorsed Sparks, and they are opposing Davis because of his conservative views. Davis says these organizations are ineffective and he is ignoring them because they are requesting large sums of money to receive their endorsement. Sparks’ plan to expand gambling and to create a state lottery to provide college scholarships is proving to be popular with many Democratic voters. Sparks has raised $1.9 million.
A Research 2000 poll conducted last week gave Davis an 8 point lead, 41% to 33%. A poll conducted by Capital Survey Research Center for the Alabama Education Association indicates 46% of Democrats were undecided one week before the primary.