Alabama Governor Wins GOP Primary Runoff
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, won a Republican primary runoff Tuesday against a businessman who accused him of embarrassing the state.
After a bitter name-calling campaign between James and Winton Blount, Democrats played a big role in the runoff, which was open to anyone who voted in the June 2 primary. Although many blacks casting the first GOP ballots of their lives voted for Blount, crossover Democrats in rural areas gave James a big boost.
With 93% of precincts reporting, James had 253,965 votes, or 56% of the vote, while Blount had 200,200 votes, or 44%.
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.
“I believe a governor should be widely known for his achievements instead of his antics,” Blount said.
James faces Democratic Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman in the fall.
James was first elected as a Democrat in 1978 but was unable to win again until he switched to the GOP in 1994. He was forced into the runoff when he fell short of a majority in the primary; he got 48% of the vote to Blount’s 41%.
Critics of James said his tirades against the federal government raised echoes of the states’ rights clamor of the segregationist era.