It looks as if the proverbial gloves are coming off in the AL-1 Republican special run-off election (Nov. 5), because presumed front-runner Bradley Byrne, a former Alabama state senator and gubernatorial candidate, has unleashed a rather surprising television attack ad against opponent Dean Young.
Citing that Young started a political action committee called the Christian Family Association PAC, the ad accuses Young of “fooling Christians for profit.” According to the Byrne ad, 95 percent of the money contributed to the organization – over $168,000 – went to Young’s company. The ad claims that Young “can’t be trusted” and says he is “the last guy we need in Washington.” The ad, which was on YouTube, has been pulled down.
The Byrne campaign’s frontal attack strategy is curious. By all measures, he leads this race and his headed for victory on Nov. 5. Such a position normally dictates a more passive campaign action plan.
On the money front, Byrne had out-raised Young by a ratio of almost 10:1 through the Sept. 4 pre-primary campaign disclosure filing ($317,245 to $36,713).
Since the Sept. 24 primary, where Byrne placed first with 35 percent in a 12-person Republican field as compared to Young’s 23 percent, the third and fourth-place finishers have each endorsed the former state legislator. The National Rifle Association soon followed suit. After that, resigned incumbent Jo Bonner (R), who left office in August to accept a position with the University of Alabama, also publicly put his political capital behind Byrne.
Additionally, an early October Wenzel Strategies poll (Oct. 6-7; 412 registered AL-1 voters), gave Byrne a 44-37 percent lead over Young.
Now there’s even controversy brewing over Byrne’s daughter. Laura Byrne works for a local environmental organization, Mobile Baykeeper, which is involved in supporting a study to establish the Mobile Delta as a national park. Bradley Byrne claims the Young campaign is personally attacking his daughter and her employer. Young retorts that “I’ve never said a word about his family. I don’t even who his daughter is.”
Though the outward signs clearly point to a Byrne victory in the run-off election, the former state senator’s campaign is going on the attack, likely for at least one of several possible reasons.
First, the Byrne campaign may possess unreleased polling data that foretells a Young surge, and that the race is closer than public surveys suggest. Second, the hard attacks may be a reaction from Byrne losing a 2010 statewide gubernatorial run-off election to current Gov. Robert Bentley (R). In that campaign, just as in this one, Byrne placed first in the primary. Therefore, his aggressive rebound in this run-off could be simply explained as a candidate not wanting to repeat previous mistakes. Third, though no Independent Expenditure committee has been officially filed on Young’s behalf, the Byrne campaign may be aware of a substantial one coming in the closing two weeks, thus allowing his opponent to increase his competitiveness.
Regardless of the reason, the Byrne campaign has taken the campaign against Young to the next level, and the results of the attacks are yet to be seen. It appears this southern Alabama run-off election is becoming a bit more interesting than first projected.
Byrne is still favored to win, but his campaign strategy is causing questions to be asked.