Sparks Beats Davis In Alabama Democratic Gov. Primary : It's All Politics Tuesday's primaries in Alabama saw Ron Sparks, the Agriculture Commissioner, surprising Rep. Artur Davis, who had hoped to become the state's first black governor.  Also, Rep. Parker Griffith, a Dem-turned-GOPer, was defeated.
NPR logo Sparks Beats Davis In Alabama Democratic Gov. Primary

Sparks Beats Davis In Alabama Democratic Gov. Primary

Two big headlines came out of Tuesday's primary results in Alabama.

The first is that Rep. Artur Davis lost his bid to become the Democratic nominee for governor.  A four-term House member with a centrist voting record, Davis, an African-American, actively sought white support in his bid for higher office.  But a combination of factors -- his decision to vote against the health care bill and his icy relations with black leaders -- apparently backfired, as he lost in a landslide to state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, a white who won the backing with the black organizations that had snubbed Davis.

With 99 percent of the precincts counted, Sparks led Davis 62-38 percent.  All pre-primary polls showed Davis ahead.

The Republican nomination will be decided in a July 13 runoff, but it is not clear which candidate will advance with Bradley Byrne, a former state senator and ex-college chancellor, who finished first.

With nearly all the vote counted, Byrne had 28 percent, but two other Republicans -- state Rep. Robert Bentley and businessman Tim James -- virtually tied for second place, with 25 percent each, separated by 140 votes as of this writing.  James, the son of a former governor, received a boost in the latter stages of the race by way of his "English only" ad that went viral.

Trailing in fourth place with 19 percent was former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Gov. Bob Riley, a two-term Republican, was ineligible to run again.

Click here for my pre-primary writeup for both parties.

The other big headline is that freshman Rep. Parker Griffith, a Democrat-turned-Republican, was defeated in his bid for a second term.  Griffith, who switched parties in December, lost to Madison Co. Commissioner Mo Brooks, who had Tea Party backing and who finished with just over 50 percent of the vote and thus avoids a runoff.  Griffith, despite his welcoming into the GOP by national Republican leaders, was never able to win the support of of his new party at home.  The 5th CD, based in northern Alabama, has never elected a Republican.  The Democratic nominee is Steve Raby.

Griffith is now the second member of the House to be denied renomination this year, following Rep. Alan Mollohan (D) of West Virginia.  Two senators have gone down as well:  Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter -- like Griffith a party-switcher -- and Utah Republican Bob Bennett.

No problem for Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby in his bid for a fifth term; he handily defeated minor primary opposition and will face attorney Bill Barnes in November.

The Republican effort to knock off freshman Rep. Bobby Bright (D) in the 2nd CD continues in the July runoff, as does the race to succeed Artur Davis in the heavily Democratic 7th.  Earl Hilliard Jr., son of the man Davis ousted in the 2002 primary, finished third and thus failed to make the runoff.

Two other states, Mississippi and New Mexico, also held primaries on Tuesday.  In Mississippi, Republican leaders got the candidate they wanted in the 1st District to take on Travis Childers (D), who won the House seat of Roger Wicker (R) after he was appointed to the Senate.  State Sen. Alan Nunnelee will be the GOP nominee against Childers in November, having won a three-way race in a field that included former Fox News analyst Angela McGlowan, the recipient of a late Sarah Palin endorsement.

In New Mexico, two women will be squaring off in the race for governor to succeed term-limited Democrat Bill RichardsonSusana Martinez, the district attorney in Dona Ana County in the south, won the GOP primary in impressive style against four opponents, including Pete Domenici Jr., son of the former senator who finished a very weak fourth.  Martinez will face Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D), who was unopposed for her party's nomination.

This will be the third time in history a gov. race will be decided between two women.  The others:  Kay Orr (R) over Helen Boosalis (D) in Nebraska in 1986, and Linda Lingle (R) over Mazie Hirono (D) in Hawaii in 2002.