Byrne in runoff, recount likely

Published 1:49 am Wednesday, June 2, 2010

MONTGOMERY (AP) — A recount may determine who will be in the Republican runoff for governor, but Bradley Byrne will be one of the two.

With more than 90 percent of the precincts reporting, the former two-year college chancellor made the runoff with 27.9 percent of the vote Tuesday night. Tusca-loosa physician Robert Bentley had 25.3 percent, Greenville businessman Tim James 25.0 percent, and former Chief Justice Roy Moore 19.3 percent.

At midnight, it was still unclear if Bentley or James would be in the runoff.

Bentley called it a nerve-racking evening. James says it appears a recount will be needed to determine who will be the second candidate in a runoff on July 13.

The Democratic race has already been decided, with Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks defeating U.S. Rep. Artur Davis.

Sparks came from behind in the polls and in fundraising to defeat U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, who had spurned traditional civil rights groups and broke with his party by voting against federal health care legislation.

Sparks, who gained the black group’s backing and supported the health care overhaul, was pulling 62 percent to 38 percent with 96 percent of the precincts reporting.

In the Democratic race, Davis, a Harvard lawyer, led President Barack Obama to victory in Alabama’s presidential primary in 2008, but he couldn’t muster similar support for himself in a primary with light turnout.

Davis won his congressional seat in 2002 without the support of the major black organizations, and he sought to establish himself as an independent gubernatorial candidate not indebted to any group. But the strategy didn’t work.

Sparks said he had expected the race to be close and was amazed by his big win. “The endorsements made a difference,” he said.

The chairman of the black Alabama Democratic Conference, Joe Reed, said Davis was hurt by ignoring the African-American groups and by voting against the federal health care plan.

The Republican and Democratic candidates spent $16 million to bombard voters with ads and try to cut through events that dominated the news.

Most of the money — $4.7 million by Byrne, $4.4 million by James — was spent by the two candidates that polls had indicated were most likely to make the runoff. By comparison, two-term Republican Gov. Bob Riley spent $4.2 million at the same point in the 2006 primary when he was challenged by Moore.