published Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Alabama legislative leaders defeat challengers

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The two Republican leaders of the Alabama Legislature beat back challengers Tuesday to win their primaries in races characterized by heavy spending and accusation-slinging ads.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn fought off a primary challenge by Auburn businessman Sandy Toomer.

With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Hubbard had 60 percent of the vote to Toomer's 40 percent, according to unofficial returns.

"I think it sends a statement that they like the direction that we are heading," Hubbard said after declaring victory.

Hubbard faced accusations of corruption throughout the race, with the speaker saying "I have never seen as nasty a race in my life."

Hubbard faces Democrat Shirley Scott Harris in November.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston defeated a tea party challenger to win the Republican nomination for Senate District 12.

With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Marsh had 60 percent of the vote to Steve Guede's 40 percent, according to unofficial returns.

Marsh faces Democrat Taylor Stewart in November.

But while the two legislative leaders won their races, at least five Republican incumbents in the House of Representative were defeated Tuesday night.

Rep. Bill Roberts of Jasper, Rep. Richard Baughn of Lynn, Rep. Wayne Johnson of Ryland, Rep. Kurt Wallace of Maplesville and Rep. Charles Newton of Greenville lost to challengers.

Republicans are likely to retain a controlling majority after the November election, so Tuesday's question became: "Which Republicans?" A shake-up in membership could change who is named to legislative leadership positions as well as the policy directions for the next four years.

There was at least one incumbent loss in the Senate as Rep. Jim McClendon of Springville upset incumbent Republican Sen. Jerry Fielding of Sylacauga.

Some of the challengers cited the current majority's education policies and a lack of attention to tea party issues such as a repeal of Common Core curriculum standards.

Guede, a longtime organizer with the Calhoun County branch of Rainy Day Patriots, said the current GOP majority has given tea party Republicans "the short end of the stick down in Montgomery.

"When supposedly conservative Republicans care more about the big business interests in Montgomery than they do about the people they are elected to represent, then it is time for them to go," Guede said during the campaign.

Alabama Education Association and the Stop Common Core political action committee have funded many of the challengers.

Marsh called many of the challengers RINOs — or Republicans in name only.

"They are definitely being led by the teachers union bunch," Marsh said. Hubbard said the AEA was trying to "infiltrate" the GOP primary after being at odds with the GOP supermajority over the last four years.

Hubbard said some of the GOP incumbents remained in tight races Tuesday night.

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