A recent automated call from the Alabama state teachers' union reminding its members that the Republican primary is open to all voters drew criticism Friday from Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne.
Byrne, who has publicly feuded with the Alabama Education Association, said the calls were meant to sabotage the GOP runoff and keep him out of the general election.
"We know that AEA is trying to hijack the Republican runoff," he said. "What they are trying to do is, first of all, get somebody in there that they think they can beat in the fall," he said. "Secondly, if they can't get someone they can beat in the fall, then someone they can continue to work with and continue what I consider to be a failed way of providing education in this state."
Byrne, with about 27 percent, took the most ballots in the first round of primary voting Tuesday and will face either Tim James or Robert Bentley in a July 13 runoff. The two are waiting to see who comes out ahead in an extremely tight vote tally. Bentley currently is in second place.
Wade Perry, who heads the AEA's Mobile chapter, disputed Byrne's claim that the call was meant to sabotage him.
Alabama Education Association President Anita Gibson, who recorded the message, simply told recipients that the Republican primary was open, Perry said. Recipients were then asked which runoff they would vote in, if they planned to vote at all, he said.
Perry, who the Press-Register contacted late Friday afternoon, was unable to produce a transcript of the call before the close of business.
The call did not endorse any particular candidate, according to Perry.
It's no secret that the AEA is highly critical of Byrne. Its opinion was made clear in a recent issue of the group's newsletter.
The main article in the issue, written by the group's executive secretary, Paul Hubbert, ran under the headline, "Bradley Byrne's War Against Our Schools."
Perry noted that about 35 percent of the union's 100,000-plus members are Republicans.
"While we are flattered that he is so interested in what we say to our members, it's really none of his business," Perry said. "If I were him, I would be wary about the 35 percent of our members who are Republicans who are not going to take very kindly to his message.
"That 35 percent, that's enough to hurt him in a low turnout election like a runoff," Perry said.