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Alabama Governor Wins GOP 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, 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.

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“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.

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