Retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus’ (R) replacement, for all intents and purposes, will become known tonight. Having voted 74.3 percent for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, suburban Birmingham’s 6th District ranks as the eighth most Republican CD in the country. Therefore, the general election campaign will not prove much of a test for whomever becomes the GOP nominee – either state Rep. Paul DeMarco (R) or Alabama Policy Institute founder and president Gary Palmer (R) – opposing trucking industry analyst Avery Vise (D).
Originally, seven GOP candidates fought for the two run-off spots on June 3, ending with DeMarco placing first with 33 percent and Palmer, in his first attempt in running for public office, garnering 20 percent to secure second position. Four of the five candidates – all but the last place finisher – eliminated in the June 3 primary have each endorsed Palmer. Large segments of the national and local conservative movement are also backing the policy center founder including the Club for Growth and the Family Research Council leadership. DeMarco scores support from the NRA and a large number of business groups and associations.
Since the beginning of the election cycle through the pre-primary Federal Election Commission filing (June 24), DeMarco had raised $1.66 million and Palmer just over $978,000. The state representative also had about a $200,000 advantage in cash-on-hand, but Palmer has a much stronger grassroots operation, which can neutralize a dollar advantage in a low-turnout primary or run-off campaign.
Both men are campaigning as conservatives, but Palmer is better able to sell himself as someone who will be a congressional activist, which helps explain his success within the grassroots.
In the primary, 94,354 votes were cast. However, we’re not expecting to see another spike in run-off turnout like we saw in the Mississippi Senate race; the AL-6 secondary election turnout likely will fall between 70-75,000 voters.
Another veteran House member retiring from a safely Republican district, Rep. Howard Coble (R) who was originally elected by less than 100 votes back in 1984, will likely see a successor chosen this evening.
Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., whose father is the North Carolina state Senate president, faces Baptist pastor Rick Walker, a first-time candidate, in the Greensboro District’s Republican run-off election.
In North Carolina, if no candidate receives 40 percent of the vote, a secondary contest is mandated. Such is the case here, as Berger placed first with 34 percent as compared to Walker’s 25 percent. The result could be considered an under-performance for Berger. Many predicted that he would exceed the 40 percent threshold and claim the nomination in the May 20 primary vote. Only 44,136 votes were cast in the Republican primary, which featured nine candidates. Even fewer voters are expected today.
Both candidates, through the June 25 pre-primary disclosure filing, fail to impress on the fundraising trail. Berger had raised a disappointing $461,000 for his effort despite his strong political establishment ties. Walker is in even worse shape at $316,000.
Controversy in the closing days has come to the forefront, as Walker is accusing Berger’s father of attempting to illegally inject new money into the campaign stream.
Berger Sr., a former leader in the Republican State Leadership Committee, allegedly arranged for the group to make a $75,000 expenditure in a third party effort to support his son. Largely because the RSLC is an organization that supports candidates for the state legislature and local office, the Walker campaign is crying foul and is going so far as to file a FEC complaint against the Berger campaign, claiming illegal coordination.