The Republican nominee for governor of Alabama will be decided today in a primary runoff. Bradley Byrne, the former chancellor of the state's community colleges, finished first in the June 1 GOP primary with 28 percent of the vote, well below the 50 percent needed to avoid today's runoff. He will face state Rep. Robert Bentley, who edged out businessman Tim James for the runoff spot with 26 percent.
The winner meets up with Democratic nominee Ron Sparks, the state Agriculture Commissioner, in November. Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, is term-limited.
The battle between Byrne and Bentley has gotten nasty and personal. The Alabama Education Association has spent more than $2 million on ads designed to defeat Byrne, and it has encouraged Democrats to vote in the GOP runoff (which they legally can do). Conservatives have also questioned the bona fides of Byrne, who in his earlier life was a Democrat who voted for Bill Clinton for president.
The Republican Party establishment have reacted with a fury. Gov. Riley, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Reps. Jo Bonner, Mike Rogers & Spencer Bachus and former Rep. Jack Edwards all recently weighed in on behalf of Byrne, who responded to the AEA with this ad:
Meanwhile, polls show Bentley with a growing lead. It is unclear if it because of the presence of Democrats participating in the runoff.
Also being decided today is the GOP nomination in the 2nd Congressional District. Montgomery City Councilmember Martha Roby faces businessman Rick Barber, who has strong Tea Party support. The winner will face freshman Rep. Bobby Bright (D).