Rep. Jay Love cruised into a runoff in the race for the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, but had to wait until well into the evening before learning he will face Sen. Harri Anne Smith.
With 99 percent of the vote reporting at press time, Love collected about 35 percent of the vote. Smith finished second with 22 percent. Dothan oral surgeon Craig Schmidtke was a close third with 20 percent and Montgomery businessman David Woods was a close fourth with 17 percent. Rep. David Grimes was a distant fifth with 4 percent and Dothan's John Martin garnered 1 percent.
Meanwhile, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright won the Democratic race easily, avoiding a runoff by collecting 71 percent of the vote, well ahead of Cheryl Sabel's 16 percent and Cendie Crawley's 13 percent.
Some expected a close race between Love and Smith, but Love said the 13-point gap between first and second were similar to his campaign's internal polls.
"It has almost been exactly on the number with our polling," Love said.
While Love was able to enjoy the evening comfortably in the runoff from the beginning, Smith, Woods and Schmidtke had a roller coaster night with each enjoying second place at different points during the evening as votes were tallied.
Smith said the race was tighter than she expected.
"We knew there was going to be a runoff, but I think the other candidates ran wonderful races. Now we're just going to continue talking about the issues and let the people of the district know how we feel."
Love was the first person to announce his intentions to run and began blanketing the district with radio and television ads, stressing his Christian conservative philosophy and opposition to higher taxes.
Woods' ads stressed family and his experience as a business leader, while Smith touted her experience in the state Senate along with her opposition to higher taxes. Schmidtke stressed his position as a political outsider.
"I think to start this race with zero name recognition, to get this far, we can hold our heads high," said Schmidtke, who said he plans to take some time before determining his plans for endorsing a candidate.
Turnout was reported as generally light throughout the district.
Bright said he plans to focus on his message and prepare for the November general election.
"Alabama's working families are ... ready for a leader who puts aside political fights and works for solutions," Bright said Tuesday evening in a prepared statement.