The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Breaking News

November 2, 2013

GOP internal divide plays out in Alabama campaign

MOBILE, Ala. — To get a sense of the Republicans' internal struggle, take a look at a congressional runoff Tuesday in south Alabama.

The race to succeed U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, who resigned the seat and became an executive with the state university system, marks a test of the business community's effort to counter conservative activists who have pushed the party to the right since President Barack Obama's election in 2008.

Bradley Byrne, a lawyer with two decades in government, is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's preferred candidate, an endorsement that has meant $200,000 in campaign support. The group has said that after October's partial federal government shutdown and near national credit default it will be more aggressive in Republican primaries.

Byrne's rival is Dean Young, a self-described tea party conservative best known as a onetime campaign adviser to Roy Moore, the judge who was once ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lobby of the Alabama Judicial Building.

Yet easily overlooked in the establishment vs. tea party storyline is that both candidates have virtually identical positions on the high-profile issues at the core of Capitol Hill dysfunction: the budget fight over tax policy and spending priorities, and the related struggle over Obama's health care law.

That raises questions about whether races like this, in strongly conservative House districts, will do anything to settle the GOP's direction or alter the dynamics of a Republican-controlled House that remains fundamentally at odds with the Democratic-run Senate.

Byrne, who lost a 2010 Republican runoff for governor to eventual winner Robert Bentley, led a field of nine candidates in the September primary with 35 percent, well short of a necessary majority. Young was a distant second.

But polls suggest the race has tightened considerably with a low turnout expected Tuesday.

Barring an upset by a little known Democrat in the December general election, the GOP runoff winner will take office as Congress nears the Jan. 15 expiration of a temporary budget agreement that reopened government. A few weeks after that, the Treasury Department again will need an increase the nation's borrowing limit.

Byrne and Young have tried to capitalize on anti-Washington sentiments heightened by the shutdown, but they go about it in starkly different ways, making the race a personality-driven demonstration of the party's seeming cultural divide.

Byrne, the city lawyer, represents the old "country club-Chamber of Commerce Republicans." Young is the voice of those who distrust all big institutions in Washington.

Both criticize Congress for the deal. Byrne uses the familiar "kicking the can down the road" as a signature line. Young opts for this favorite: "We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem."

In a recent forum, Byrne blamed Obama for the shutdown because he "wouldn't even talk to Republicans" about the health care law, taxes and spending. Young dismisses any worry about blame for the shutdown, saying it was worth it to stop the health care law, which he calls "the absolute worst mistake this country has ever made, excepting the election of Barack Hussein Obama."

Young says "absolutely not, under no circumstance" to increasing the debt limit again. Byrne says he wouldn't unless it was part of a larger deal to overhaul the federal budget. But he's quick to note that he signed a pledge to oppose any tax increase of any kind.

With Obama and Democrats making clear that any long-term deal must pair revenue increases with spending cuts, the immediate prospects of a deal that meets Byrne's conditions are slim to none.

Byrne acknowledges that "on substance, there's not much difference between me and Mr. Young." He notes that while Young embraces the tea party label, the national conservative groups that have endorsed primary opponents of Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., haven't endorsed Young. Byrne says it's because those interests are comfortable with him.

For Byrne, the distinction that matters is style.

Despite his blistering critiques of Obama, he usually says "President Obama" and states as fact that the president was born in Hawaii and proved it with a birth certificate. Young has indulged the false rumors that Obama was born in Kenya and is somehow ineligible to hold office.

"Tone is important," Byrne said, sitting in his downtown law office in the district's population center. "The job of a congressman is more than just what you say about these national issues," he said, pointing down at the shipbuilding yards along the Mobile River. "It's about those jobs right out there. You have to be able to work with people, in Washington and at home."

Byrne doesn't necessarily embrace the "establishment" label, arguing that his tenure on the state school board, in the state Senate and later as a statewide two-year college system chief makes him "a conservative reformer."

For Young and his followers, that history and the way Byrne talks about tone are warnings.

Young supporter Kevin Spriggs, a businessman in Byrne's home county, noted that Byrne was elected to the school board as a Democrat in 1994, well after many "Reagan Democrats" had switched parties.

Byrne switched in 1997.

"I learned there was no place for a conservative in the Alabama Democratic Party," Byrne said.

In 2003, he voted to allow a statewide referendum on a $1 billion-plus overhaul of Alabama tax laws. Voters trounced the measure, but it's haunted Byrne, including in his failed run for governor, when he won many urban centers but lost badly in the rest of the state.

Young gleefully says Byrne's tax vote wasn't from a true conservative, even if it was only to allow a referendum. He also noted that the chamber supported increasing the debt limit and backs an immigration overhaul that he said amounts to "amnesty for 11 million illegals."

"If you want go-along, get-along, then vote for Bradley," Young said. "We've had that in this district for 50 years. How's that worked out?"

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • Toyota to boost SUV production at Indiana factory Toyota says it will spend $100 million to boost production of the Highlander SUV at its southwestern Indiana factory, with plans to add 300 workers in the next couple of years.

    August 22, 2014

  • 18 people rescued from flooded Indiana homes Northwestern Indiana police say firefighters used boats to rescue 18 people after flood waters from heavy overnight rains surrounded their homes.

    August 22, 2014

  • NWS -  HB0823 - Fire-Rozelle Johnson - JC 28a.jpg Lightning might have caused Anderson funeral home fire

    A lightning strike is suspected of starting a fire at Rozelle-Johnson Funeral Services, Ind. 32 and Rangeline Road, early Friday morning.

    August 22, 2014 3 Photos

  • Teams test out a new helmet, but does it work?

    Arkansas coach Bret Bielema proudly posted a message on Twitter last spring that featured the Razorbacks' new helmets — a futuristic design by Riddell called the SpeedFlex that is supposed to be the latest in head protection.

    August 22, 2014

  • Airline group forecasts uptick in Labor Day travel

    A trade group for the nation's big airlines predicts that air travel over the Labor Day weekend will rise 2 percent from the same holiday last year.

    August 22, 2014

  • Some US colleges calling students back from Israel

    Some U.S. colleges are pulling students from overseas study programs in Israel as the Gaza war rages, though the relative calm beyond the immediate battle areas is raising questions in some quarters about why they had to leave.

    August 21, 2014

  • Instant noodles: Friend or foe?

    Kim Min-koo has an easy reply to new American research that hits South Korea where it hurts — in the noodles. "There's no way any study is going to stop me from eating this," says Kim.

    August 21, 2014

  • Ohio diocese discourages ALS ice bucket challenge

    A Roman Catholic diocese in Ohio is discouraging its 113 schools from participating in the ice bucket challenge to benefit the ALS Association, saying the group's funding of embryonic stem cell research is "in direct conflict with Catholic teaching."

    August 21, 2014

  • Charter school to close after cheating revealed

    One of Indianapolis' oldest charter schools will close next month, after an investigation uncovered widespread cheating on its students' state standardized tests in 2013 and 2014.

    August 21, 2014

  • Severe thunderstorm watch until midnight

    The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for portions of central Indiana, including Madison County.

    August 21, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Furry Roommates: Dorms Allowing Cats and Dogs Chase Rice Defends Bro-Country 'Jersey Shore Massacre' Pokes Fun at MTV Series Raw: Wash. Mudslides Close Roads, Trap Motorists DC's Godfather of Go-Go Honored Ukraine Calls Russian Convoy a 'direct Invasion' Girl Meets Her 'one in the World' Match Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks Japan Landslide Rescuers Struggle in Heavy Rain Raw: Severe Floods, Fire Wrecks Indiana Homes Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future Raw: Russian Aid Convoy Arrives in Ukraine Okla. Policeman Accused of Sex Assaults on Duty Dominican Republic Bans Miley Cyrus Concert Raw: Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Raw: Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in Malaysia Attorney: Utah Eatery Had Other Chemical Burn
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Do you think heroin is a significant problem in Madison County?

Yes, it has surpassed meth as the problem drug
Yes, but meth is still a bigger problem
No, this was an isolated case
Not sure
     View Results