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Montgomery Advertiser - "Democrats give nod to Bright; GOP hopefuls face July runoff"

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Bobby Bright will begin his general election campaign for Congress today, but won't know his opponent for another six weeks.

Montgomery's mayor won 70 percent of the vote, handily defeating his two Democratic challengers -- civil rights advocate Cheryl Sabel and dentist Cendie Crawley -- in Tuesday's primary election.

But the race for the Republican nomination was much tighter, ending with two Alabama legislators advancing to a July 15 runoff.

State Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery, who won 35 percent of the votes, and state Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb, with 22 percent of the votes, came out on top after months of intense, competitive campaigning.

The nine hopefuls began their quest to replace retiring District 2 Rep. Terry Everett last fall. The Rehobeth Republican has represented the district, which spans 16 counties throughout south and central Alabama, since 1992.

The Associated Press declared Bright the winner shortly before 9 p.m., after he had 76 percent of the voters with one-third of the returns counted.

Bright, who celebrated the victory with family and friends at his headquarters on Zelda Road, said it's time to "really get to work now."

"This is just one of the first hurdles of many that I have to face in order to prove to the people of District 2 that I am one of them and that I can represent their interests in Washington," Bright said after receiving the call from the AP.

Bright said that while voters won't start seeing TV commercials until closer to the Nov. 4 general election, people in the 2nd District can expect to see even more of him as he increases his campaigning efforts throughout the district.

Bright said his challenge will be to "pierce the Republican veil," referring to the Republican-leaning district that could discount him based solely on his party affiliation. He said he plans to overcome that by showing voters that his morals and views are like theirs.

Meanwhile, Love celebrated his lead above the five other Republican candidates.

His showing was not strong enough to escape a runoff in six weeks (a candidate must win 50 percent of the votes plus one in order to be declared the victor).

Love, knowing a run-off election was likely, already had a game plan in place before the primary votes were tallied.

"We're on the road tomorrow to Troy and to Enterprise," Love said, moments after it was confirmed that he won 52 percent of the votes in Montgomery County.

Love watched as volunteers updated a board showing the county-by-county vote breakdown as precincts reported throughout the district. He looked on anxiously as the numbers came in for the counties that his campaign had targeted.

Love said he focused his efforts on Coffee, Covington and Pike counties, to name a few, because there were no candidates with "geographical loyalties" in those areas. He said he has visited Enterprise as many as 30 times and Troy at least 50 times.

"No candidate was really that well known. I wanted to be the first one there -- work as hard as I could -- and try to win their support," Love said Tuesday night at his campaign headquarters at 605 N. East Boulevard.

Smith and political newcomer Craig D. Schmidtke, an oral surgeon in Dothan, battled each other for the No. 2 spot, but Smith narrowly secured her place in the runoff by two percentage points.

"We always knew it was going to be close," Smith said. "We're just glad to make it tonight, and we appreciate everyone who helped us get here."

Smith, who celebrated with more than 100 supporters at her Dothan headquarters, said she planned to "get back on the campaign trail" and show people that she is the best candidate.

Smith is trying to do something that has never been done -- be the first woman to be elected to Alabama's 2nd District seat. The district has had a female congressional representative, but that woman, Elizabeth Bullock Andrews, was appointed to serve after her husband died while in office.

It's been a Republican district since 1964 when Bill Dickinson won during the Goldwater Sweep. Dickinson, who died earlier this year, lived in Montgomery.

Everett, who hasn't had any serious opposition during his tenure, lives in the Wiregrass and is retiring for health reasons.

The race up to the primary has been a costly one -- especially for the six Republican candidates. Collectively, the Republicans have spent $1.56 million on getting their name out in the 16-county district. The district covers 10,608 square miles and is half rural, half urban.

The biggest spender has been Schmidtke, who has saturated the 2nd District with commercials and billboards. Schmidtke had spent $574,750 as of May 14, with the majority of that money -- specifically, $527,855 -- coming from his own pocket.

Not far behind him is Love, who had spent $426,086 as of the same date. Like Schmidtke, Love's personal money accounted for a chunk of his campaign funds. Love loaned himself $349,000 of his own money.

Martin had spent the least of the Republicans and was the second to last in total money raised on both sides.

The only candidate who raised and spent less money -- Crawley, a Democrat and a dentist living in Troy -- reported collecting and spending no money.

Martin had spent $11,087 as of May 19 and had $5,269 left. The Longbow Apache instructor at Fort Rucker contributed $14,400 to himself. Martin won 1 percent of the votes.

The rest of the Republican candidates had spent the following as of May 14: Smith, $298,524; Woods, $237,057; and Grimes, $13,590. Woods earned 17 percent of the votes, and Grimes won 4 percent.

The race was significantly less expensive on the Democrat side. Sabel spent $16,514 and Bright spent $61,459 as of May 14.

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