AL-GOV: Bentley Squeezes Byrne from Both Sides

Bradley Byrne has a tough task in tomorrow's Alabama Republican runoff for governor. He has to defeat the candidate who is running to his right: Robert Bentley. He also has to defeat the candidate who is running to his left: Robert Bentley.
by | July 12, 2010

Bradley Byrne has a tough task in tomorrow's Alabama Republican runoff for governor. He has to defeat the candidate who is running to his right: Robert Bentley. He also has to defeat the candidate who is running to his left: Robert Bentley.

Bentley, a state representative, was the surprise second-place finisher in the exceptionally close first round of voting. Byrne, who headed Alabama's community college system, was the frontrunner from the beginning. Doc's Political Parlor has a good rundown of who is supporting whom:

The GOP runoff for the nomination for Governor keeps getting more and more interesting with blurred lines of demarcation and strange bedfellows.

The former Democrat, Bradley Byrne, enjoys support of the GOP establishment. Lifelong Republican Robert Bentley enjoys the support of Democratic party Vice-Chair (and AEA chief) Paul Hubbert and welcomes Dems’ votes. Ads funded by AEA hammer Byrne (though it’s Byrne who has received more AEA money over the years than Bentley). And Scott Beason, one of the most reliably conservative voices in the state Senate, has endorsed Bentley.

The state GOP establishment has pushed back against the notion that Bradley Byrne is its gubernatorial candidate of choice in the GOP primary and runoff, but that pushback has disappeared in the closing days of the campaign. Republican Congressmen Spencer Bachus, Jo Bonner, and Mike Rogers have endorsed Byrne, as has retired Congressman Terry Everett. Gov. Bob Riley has indicated he supports Byrne.

Besides Beason, Bentley also has the backing of Mike Huckabee. On abortion, immigration and state sovereignty, Bentley is running as a conservative. Yet Bentley also is collecting institutional Democratic support because the teachers union, the most powerful Democratic group in the state, doesn't like Byrne.

Democrats are allowed vote in the Republican runoff. Many might. Democrats do have their own runoff tomorrow, but since the party already has picked Ron Sparks as its nominee for governor, Democrats lack many high-profile races (a runoff for the Democratic nomination in the 7th congressional district is an exception). Byrne has the support of the Republican establishment, but Bentley has the support of most of the people who don't like the Republican establishment, whether they're disaffected conservatives or Democrats.

Byrne has fought back, though, by explicitly noting Bentley's Democratic support. From the Associated Press:

But now Byrne is accusing the Alabama Education Association, led by two vice chairmen of the Alabama Democratic Party, of trying to steal the GOP runoff by encouraging crossover voting for Bentley.

"Our party is being hijacked by the liberal Democrat machine," the former two-year college chancellor said.

On Wednesday morning, it will be fascinating to look at some of Alabama's overwhelmingly Democratic precincts to see just how many votes Bentley won.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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