State could see two Republican primary runoffs

Published 5:17 pm Monday, June 14, 2010

Alabama could see two gubernatorial Republican primary runoffs this summer if a recently filed recount petition overturns the results of the original primary election, according to Alabama Attorney General Troy King.

On June 9, Republican governor candidate Tim James requested a recount of all votes cast for the governor’s race in his party’s June 1 primary election. James’ recount request came one day after state election officials announced he received the third-most votes during the primary election.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Bradley Byrne and Robert Bentley defeated James during the June 1 primary. However, Bentley and James were separated by only 167 votes.

On June 11, Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman certified a ballot naming Byrne and Bentley for a July 13 Republican primary runoff election.

Because the runoff election ballot has already been certified, Bentley and Byrne will appear in the July 13 election regardless of the outcome of the primary election recount.

But if the recount, which is being funded by James’ campaign, “produces a change in precinct totals of sufficient magnitude to alter the result of the election,” James will be able to file a primary election contest with the Alabama Republican Party, according to an opinion penned by King.

“If the recount changes the result, that change is not reliable enough to change the certificate,” read King’s opinion. “Instead, it provides a basis for a contest of the election.”

If the recount produces a different result than the June 1 primary results and James is able to successfully challenge the primary results, it could cause the results of the July 13 runoff to be nullified.

The Republican party would then set a second primary runoff election featuring the top two Republican vote-getters identified in the recount results.

“If a contest determines that a different candidate should have been in the runoff, a second runoff will be held,” read a King press release.

The recount in Shelby County is expected to begin at 1:30 p.m. June 16 at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Training Center on McDow Road.

Statewide, the recount could be completed as early as June 18, according to Alabama Republican Party Communications Director Philip Bryan.

Bryan said the state will fund the runoff election itself, but he was unsure who would fund a second runoff election if it happens. He was also unable to predict when the second runoff election would be.

“We will handle anything that happens post-recount at that time,” Bryan said. “We are trying to keep everything in order right now.”

A member of James’ campaign criticized King for suggesting a second primary runoff election, and questioned who would pay for the second election.

“That is complete nonsense,” said Brett Hall, campaign communications director for James’ campaign. “Who is going to pay for this runoff number two? It’s a total waste of money.”

In a statement of contest James filed with the state Republican Party June 14, he said King acted with “malconduct” and “intimidation” when writing his opinion.

James filed the statement of contest to formally protest, pending the recount, Byrne and Bentley being named to the Republican runoff ballot.

“If (King’s) opinion is followed, it is as a practical matter impossible to have a meaningful recount take place so as to insure the fairness of the primary,” read the statement of contest.

“Troy King’s June 11, 2010 opinion, as Republican Party’s State Executive Committee Chairman Mike Hubbard stated is ‘ridiculous’ and has caused ‘a quagmire for the party’ and certainly has caused a quagmire for the candidates,” the statement added.

Bentley, a Columbiana native, criticized James for requesting the recount. Because the recount is not a state-required recount, it will not be handled by sworn election officials, according to a Bentley press release.

“It is totally absurd to presume that a recount administered by untrained volunteers would make the recount any more accurate than the original count administered by qualified election professionals sworn to uphold the Constitution of Alabama and of the United States,” wrote Bryan Sanders, Bentley’s campaign manager.