Despite Byrne’s 11-point lead over Young in the primary and the subsequent endorsements of his campaign by Chad Fincher and Quin Hillyer, who finished third and fourth respectively, some believe a low turnout will favor Young and the race is a toss-up. A poll by Now or Never PAC released Oct. 10 showed Byrne with 44 percent of the vote, Young with 37 percent and 19 percent undecided.
With stints on the state school board, in the Alabama legislature and an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign under his belt, Byrne may be benefitting from a higher name recognition, but he also isn’t complacent. Since the primary, Byrne has been running an active ground game, appearing at high school football games, fairs, festivals, civic events and even a gun show. He’s also gained endorsements from the NRA, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bonner and former congressman Jack Edwards.
“We think obviously that poll was done by a very conservative group and drew a very conservative sample,” Byrne said of the PAC, which has not endorsed either candidate. “If the most conservative sample you can draw still shows me ahead by a significant number of percentage points, that makes me feel pretty good. But what I hope that poll does do is communicate to people throughout the district that every vote counts and inspires people to come out.”
Meanwhile, Byrne hasn’t been immune to attacks by Young. In referring to Byrne as “another attorney” or an “establishment Republican, former-Democrat” much earlier in the race, Young may have actually thrown the first punches. In the past few weeks, Young has spun Byrne’s endorsements and fundraising success as proof that his opponent is tied to special interests and if elected, has warned Byrne would not put constituents first.
But Byrne has taken those jabs in stride, noting how Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose efforts Young has praised, is an attorney. He also doesn’t shy away from his former affiliation with the Democratic party, noting until recently, it was the majority party in Alabama.
“I’m amazed my opponent likes Ted Cruz because Cruz is a lawyer and my opponent doesn’t like lawyers,” Byrne said. “One of the reasons Ted Cruz has been successful is because he is a smart guy thinking very smartly outside the box as a freshman senator who has been able to accomplish a lot. I’m glad my opponent recognizes how capable attorneys can be. As far as being a former Democrat, my opponent’s major ally is Roy Moore, who used to be a Democrat. Ronald Reagan used to be Democrat. Fob James used to be a Democrat. Sonny Callahan used to be a Democrat. Dick Shelby used to be a Democrat. If you go back even 10 or 15 years, virtually everybody in political life in Alabama was a Democrat. Back then, the division was between the conservative, pro-business side of the Democratic party and the liberal side. The conservative, pro-business side is all Republican now. So that’s one of those phony arguments. I’ve been a Republican for 16-to-17 years and I was involved in the effort to turn Alabama into a Republican state. I was a part of the architecture for taking over the legislature for the Republicans so I’ve fought very hard not to water down Republican party but to make it stronger in Alabama. I know he’s running a political race and he has to say something, but the reality is the opposite of what he’s saying.”
To that, Young argues Byrne is not conservative enough. He is quick to remind that as a state senator, Byrne voted for Amendment 1, a $1.2 billion tax increase that was defeated statewide three-to-one. Byrne claims if he had the ability to change one decision he’s made in his political career, he’d convince then-Gov. Bob Riley and others in the legislature that the tax plan was a bad idea, but Young, along with advocacy group Citizens for Tax Relief have seized on the vote as an example of Byrne’s willingness to ignore popular opinion.
“Bradley Byrne voted to raise taxes at least 10 times as a state senator, and that is not the kind of candidate we want in Washington,” CTR spokesman John Clanton said in a statement. “If you are a career politician who voted for the largest tax increase in Alabama’s history, we are going to point that out. It is nothing against Bradley personally, but the people deserve to know.”
Pointing to Byrne’s on-again, off-again political career, Young also claims he’s simply trying to climb the ladder.
“We need to send people up (to Washington) who will limit their own power instead of people who want to become more and more powerful and to be a politician that just wants to get to the next level,” Young said. “If you follow [Byrne’s] career, you see he just wants to go higher and higher in political circles. If you look at his campaign, you’ll see it’s just about himself.”
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