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Republican Versus Republican in Closely Watched Race

  • Cindy Saine

FILE - Alabama Republican Bradley Byrne.

FILE - Alabama Republican Bradley Byrne.

In addition to the big gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, some analysts were closely watching a special election primary runoff in the southern U.S. state of Alabama between a business-backed Republican candidate and a Tea Party Republican candidate as a potential indicator of the political climate after the government shutdown and debt ceiling battle in October.

The special primary race in coastal Alabama between two conservative Christian, Republican candidates vying for a congressional seat vacated by retiring Republican Jo Bonner turned nasty. The two candidates traded accusations at a campaign event both attended.

Lawyer and former state senator Bradley Byrne:

“You and your campaign attacked my daughter, attacked my faith," said Byrne.

The candidate who sees himself as representing the anti-government Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, Dean Young:

“I never expected somebody to walk up behind me and hit me with a brick. That is what I call a coward," said Young.

Byrne defeated Young by a four-point margin, and is virtually certain to defeat his Democratic opponent in the December 17 general election in the safe Republican district.

In his victory speech, Byrne called for Republicans to work together, but acknowledged that he was not expecting a congratulatory call from his Republican opponent, Dean Young.

In his concession speech Tuesday, Young said he would not call Byrne and he would not support him in the general election. Young said the fight is not over and that he is considering forming a national organization.

Young is a controversial figure who has made headlines with his outspoken opposition to gay rights, and by saying that the still believes President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, even though the president produced a long form birth certificate from Hawaii to quell any lingering doubts.

Byrne accused Young of being a “showhorse,” and called himself a “workhorse” who wants to go to Washington to get things done.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a number of corporate sponsors and some Republican leaders in Congress sent checks to support Byrne.

Analysts say that the politically damaging government shutdown and debt ceiling battle last month were a wake up call for Republican leaders and the business community, that they need to support more traditional Republican candidates in some races against insurgent Tea Party candidates across the country.

Political analyst Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report says that message has not made its way down to some rank and file members.

“The problem is that the party base, and a lot of the more conservative elements of the party, including in the House and Senate, they have not learned a lesson," said Cook.

Cook said that since a wave of conservative Tea Party members won seats in Congress in 2010, Republican lawmakers in safe Republican districts have been more afraid of a primary challenge from another, more conservative Republican than they have been worried about a Democratic opponent. Cook said the Republican leadership needs to take action to change that perception:

“What the leadership or the establishment has got to try to do is to kind of equalize that pain, so that there is a price if you move too far over to the right," he said.

Analysts say that some business leaders are already targeting outspoken Tea Party Republican Representative Justin Amash of Michigan by supporting a more moderate challenger in next November’s midterm congressional election.