In yet another surprise of the 2010 campaign year, State Rep. Robert Bentley, 67, won Alabama’s GOP gubernatorial primary run-off last night. A few months ago his candidacy was not taken seriously by political professionals, but now Bentley is a solid favorite to claim the Governor’s Mansion.
Former State Sen. Bradley Byrne, 55, was considered the frontrunner for the past six months and appeared to have all the elements of a winning campaign. He raised $6 million, and had endorsements from the outgoing Governor, three GOP Congressmen, and numerous Republican officials.
The bad news for Byrne is that he was running in a very anti-establishment year. Byrne was also the target of a tough, multi-million dollar ad campaign by the Alabama Education Association (AEA). They made Byrne pay for his campaigning against the state teacher’s organization.
Incumbent Gov. Bob Riley (R) is stepping down after eight years because of terms limits. He convinced Byrne to leave the State Senate in 2007 so he could be appointed chancellor of the state’s junior college system.
Bentley, a retired physician, defeated Byrne by a 56% to 44% margin. Byrne supporters said cross over voting by Democrats was a factor in Bentley’s victory, but state elections officials said there was little evidence to support the allegation.
Two days ago, Byrne said “The truth of the matter is Bentley can’t get any Republicans to support him because they know he’s a Democrat. He’s doing the Democrats bidding.” Byrne repeatedly mentioned Bentley’s $10,000 contribution from AEA.
Bentley funded his own campaign with a $1.9 million loan, and first shocked the state on June 1st when he unexpectedly came in second place in the seven candidate GOP primary. In the initial primary Bentley defeated Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James (R), by only 267 votes.
He also defeated Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the state supreme court. The campaign chairmen for James and Moore both endorsed Bentley.
Bentley pledged to serve without salary until the state’s 10.8% unemployment rate is reduced to 5.2%.
Bentley now faces State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks (D) who was the upset winner in his primary by defeating Congressman Artur Davis. Sparks has already received over $500,000 from AEA and gambling interests.
Second District: Martha Roby (R) vs. Rep. Bobby Bright (D)
Another major contest last night was in the Second Congressional District where Martha Roby won the GOP nomination to challenge freshman Rep. Bobby Bright (D). Republicans will have to win back this district if they hope to make substantial gains in the House of Representatives.
Roby, 34, is an attorney and for the past 7 years she has served on the Montgomery City Council. She is the daughter of a federal judge, and is well acquainted with Congressman Bright who was Mayor of Montgomery for most of the years she served on the Council.
Rep. Bright was elected to the House by 0.6% of the vote in 2008 while John McCain was carrying the district with 63%. Bright is one of only seven House Democrats who voted against Obama’s stimulus. He also voted against Obamacare and cap and trade, and National Journal ranks him as the most conservative Democrat in the House.
In last nights primary run-off, Roby defeated Rick Barber, 35, by a 60% to 40% margin. Roby had received 49% in the initial primary and 50% was needed for an outright victory. In claiming victory she said, “We need someone who is willing to say ‘no’ and break Washington’s addiction to wasteful spending. I have a track record of cutting wasteful spending on the Montgomery City Council, and I promise to do the same in Washington.”
According to Sean Miller in The Hill newspaper:
Barber had hoped to capitalize on the strength of the Tea Party movement. But as the race wore on, he looked out of his depth and was forced to defend a series of controversial campaign ads.
Barber released a minute-long TV ad that features him yelling about being taxed without representation to a group of men dressed as America’s founding fathers. The ad closes with an actor dressed as a young George Washington murmuring “gather your armies.” Another of his Web ads equates taxation to slavery and features an actor playing Abraham Lincoln.
Glenn Beck found the ads extreme and called Barber a “dope” on his radio show. In the two primary debates, Barber advocated giving up America’s veto power in the UN Security Council. Barber had the support of the Libertarian Party’s Liberty First PAC. Barber, a Marine Corps veteran, said “I think America should ditch the UN, and see how they fare without America.” Barber was endorsed by the influential Republican website, Red State:
Rick Barber is going to be one heck of an outstanding congressman and his opponent, Martha Roby, is unimpressive. She is typical of what we like to call the country club Republicans, but more accurately the status quo Republicans.
She’ll bring home the bacon. She’ll vote the right way on most issues. But she’s not going to get her hands dirty fighting for freedom.
Rick Barber is an in the trenches, take no prisoners freedom fighter. Were Tom DeLay to ever tell Rick Barber he must vote for something like No Child Left Behind or Eric Cantor to tell him he must vote for something like TARP, Rick Barber will put them both in his truck, drive right up to the gates of hell, drop them off, and head back to the light of freedom.
He’s not going to put up with nonsense from the Democrats or the Republicans. He’s my kind of guy. He’s my kind of Congressman. And I really hate that I haven’t been able to get over and do an event with him.