MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Republican contest in Alabama's 1st Congressional District is headed to a runoff Nov. 5 between former two-year college chancellor Bradley Byrne of Fairhope and Orange Beach businessman Dean Young.
The runoff will be a classic GOP battle. The better-funded Byrne has strong ties to Alabama business leaders and the Republican establishment while Young is a tea party favorite and longtime ally of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.
With about 90 percent of the precincts reporting Tuesday night, unofficial returns show Byrne getting 32 percent, followed by Young with 23 percent. State Rep. Chad Fincher was third with 18 percent. Conservative columnist Quin Hillyer was fourth with 13 percent, followed by former Republican National Committee staffer Wells Griffith with 12 percent. Four other candidates had 2 percent combined.
Real estate agent Burton Leflore of Mobile won the Democratic primary over Lula Albert-Kaigler with about 70 percent of the vote. LeFlore advances to the general election Dec. 17, but Republicans have won the southwest Alabama district since 1964.
Byrne led the GOP primary race in fundraising, drawing heavily from business interests. "I'm always happy to be the candidate of business people," he said Tuesday night at a campaign celebration.
Byrne also entered the race with more name recognition, having served on the state school board and in the state Senate prior to becoming junior college chancellor. He left that post to run for governor, finishing second in the 2010 Republican primary.
Byrne said the major difference between this election and 2010 is he didn't have the state teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association, running attack ads against him. "That's the No. 1 thing," he said.
Young ran second in a four-way Republican primary for the congressional seat in 2012. This time, he played up his outsider status, including campaigning in a National Rifle Association cap, and helped finance his own campaign. He told voters the country needs to change to a more godly direction or it is going to fall.
The seat representing southwest Alabama came open last month when Republican Jo Bonner resigned, leaving the $174,000-a-year office to take a $350,000 job with the University of Alabama System.
Turnout was light on an Election Day marked by periodic rain, with about 11 percent of the registered voters participating.