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Byrne wins GOP runoff in Alabama's 1st District

GOP Divisions Alabama
Alabama’s First District congressional seat candidate Bradley Byrne greets supports, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, at Ed's Seafood Shed in Spanish Fort, Ala. (AP File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Bradley Byrne, a Republican establishment candidate, defeated a Tea Party supporter in the Republican runoff in Alabama's 1st Congressional District.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting Tuesday night, Byrne had 52 percent of the vote and Dean Young had 48 percent.

The runoff presented a classic clash between the two sides of the Republican Party.

Byrne, a 58-year-old Fairhope attorney, led a field of nine in the September primary. He raised more than twice as much campaign money as Young and ran with the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than two dozen members of Congress, and two men who previously held the 1st District office, Jo Bonner and Jack Edwards.

Byrne, a former state senator and state school board member, campaigned on his work as chancellor of Alabama's two-year college system, where he restored credibility after a corruption scandal that sent a previous chancellor to prison.

Young, a 49-year-old Orange Beach businessman, ran an outsider campaign, aligning himself with the Tea Party and drawing praise from Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore. Young played key roles in Moore's two elections, both against better-funded candidates backed by the business community and Republican establishment.

Byrne and Young differed little on the issues, but were miles apart in style. Byrne has the reserved style of the junior college chancellor he used to be and describes himself as a "conservative reformer."

Young labels himself a "constitutional conservative" and presents a blistering style, particularly when criticizing the president.

During the campaign, Byrne called Young an extremist who "would be an embarrassment to the Republican Party." Young said Byrne is a "go-along, get-along" former Democrat who would give the southwest Alabama district the same representation it has had for 50 years.

Young ran strong in rural parts of the district, but Byrne carried heavily populated Baldwin and Mobile counties.

Byrne avoided what happened to him in the 2010 race for governor, when he led in the primary with strong business support and then lost in the runoff.

The winner advances to the general election Dec. 17 against Mobile real estate agent Burton Leflore, who has raised little money in a district that has elected Republicans to Congress since 1964.

The congressional office came open in August when Bonner resigned to work for the University of Alabama System.