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Alabama Governor Leading in Primary Runoff

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Gov. Forrest “Fob” James Jr., who has championed school prayer with the kind of states’ rights fervor not heard in the South since the issue was race, vied for the Republican nomination Tuesday in a runoff against a businessman who accused him of embarrassing the state.

After a bitter name-calling campaign, polls showed James and Winton Blount in a race that could be determined by Democrats, who were free to vote in the GOP runoff. A spot check Tuesday found many crossovers, including many blacks who were casting the first ballots for Republicans in their lives.

With 28% of precincts reporting, James had 55,545 votes, or 62%, while Blount had 33,819 votes, or 38%.

James, 63, drew endorsements from national leaders of the religious right for his outspoken defense of teacher-led prayer in school and the display of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom. Blount, 55, cast James as a divisive figure who has brought ridicule on Alabama with extremist rhetoric.

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“I believe a governor should be widely known for his achievements instead of his antics,” Blount said.

The winner of the runoff faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman in the fall.

James was forced into the runoff when he fell short of a majority in the June 2 primary. He got 48% to Blount’s 41%.

He has vowed to disregard Supreme Court rulings concerning school prayer and threatened to call out the National Guard to defend a Ten Commandments display in a judge’s courtroom.

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