Roby Wins Runoff to Face Bright; Sewell Set to Succeed Davis

July 13, 2010

Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby defeated businessman Rick Barber in Tuesday’s GOP runoff in Alabama’s 2nd district, making her the nominee in November against freshman Rep. Bobby Bright (D) in a race that will be highly competitive.

Roby, who fell just short of securing the nomination outright in the June primary, defeated Barber 60 percent to 40 percent.

Roby was an early recruit for the National Republican Congressional Committee in the conservative southeastern Alabama district Bright won in 2008. But during the runoff, Barber sought to paint her as the choice of the party establishment rather than 2nd district voters. Barber earned some national attention in recent weeks with a series of viral Internet videos that featured him airing his grievances over the encroachment of the federal government to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

While Roby has garnered some criticism because of her low fundraising totals and for not escaping a runoff, national Republicans continue to believe she will give Bright a serious challenge in the strongly conservative district.

On Tuesday, the NRCC was quick to jump on what spokesman Andy Seré described as Bright’s flip-flop over a controversial immigration law recently enacted in Arizona.

While Bright had previously supported the Arizona bill, Seré pointed to a Washington Post story this week that discussed Bright’s opposition to the legislation. The article said Bright opposes the law because it could encourage racial profiling.

“When Bobby Bright revealed his opposition this week to a tough-on-illegal-immigration law supported by a large majority of his constituents, it wasn’t just a flip-flop — it was a serious blow to his re-election campaign,” Seré said. “After an impressive primary win, Martha Roby is ready to capitalize on the Congressman’s newfound liberalism by offering Alabamians a better way.”

Meanwhile, in the runoff in the open 7th district, lawyer Terri Sewell secured the Democratic nomination Tuesday and is all but certain to become the state’s first black Congresswoman in January. Sewell defeated Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot 55 percent to 44 percent in the runoff.

In the majority-black and overwhelmingly Democratic Birmingham-based district, winning the primary is akin to winning the general election. Sewell is expected to cruise to victory in November over inventor and ex-Marine Don Chamberlain, who secured the GOP nomination in a runoff Tuesday.

Smoot’s political background and the name identification she earned from hosting a local radio show in the district gave her the early advantage over Sewell, a first-time candidate.

But Sewell’s large fundraising advantage proved too much for Smoot. Sewell raised more than $1.1 million in her bid to replace Rep. Artur Davis (D), who decided to forgo re-election to make an unsuccessful bid for governor. Smoot raised less than $136,000.

Even as the contest turned negative in the final weeks, Sewell’s fundraising advantage helped her maintain her lead by allowing her to dominate the television and radio airwaves. As of late June, Sewell had nearly $104,000 left in her campaign account to Smoot’s $13,000.

The abortion rights group EMILY’s List, which endorsed Sewell in February and has been a key advocate for her campaign, released a statement Tuesday evening praising her victory.

“Voters responded to Terri’s principled track record of accomplishments, her optimism and dedication to her community, and to her hard work on the campaign trail,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said. “EMILY’s List is proud to see Sewell make history in Alabama — and proud to have been with her every step of the way.”
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