Former state Sen. Bradley Byrne defeated tea-party-backed candidate Dean Young in a special GOP runoff in Alabama’s 1st District on Tuesday, marking the first big win for more moderate Republicans in the fight for control of the GOP since the government shutdown.
With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Byrne led Young, 53 percent to 47 percent, according to The Associated Press.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business-oriented groups, such as TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts’ Ending Spending PAC, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the final days of the contest to ensure a Byrne victory.
The win sends a message to the tea party that business groups are willing to play in GOP primaries to send more pragmatic, business-minded Republicans to Congress.
The special election between Byrne and Young had flown mostly under the radar in recent months. Rep. Jo Bonner resigned to take a job with the University of Alabama system, leading to the special election.
However after several tea-party-aligned House members irked business groups by nearly leading the country to a credit default last month, the race became a microcosm of the fight for control of the GOP.
Byrne came in first out of a crowded nine-candidate field in the Sept. 24 GOP primary. But he did not pass the 50 percent threshold needed to win the election outright. Young wrangled the socially conservative, evangelical base of Republican voters in the district to take the second-place spot.
Young motivated his base with his sharp-tongue opposition to homosexuality and his
and his outspoken nature on the campaign trail as he touted himself as a “Ted Cruz congressman.”
That excited base kept the race close throughout most of the runoff period. But the final push of spending by outside groups was too much for Young to overcome.
Byrne is now expected to coast to victory in the Dec. 17 general against Democrat Burton LeFlore in this deeply conservative district in southern Alabama. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the 1st District with 62 percent in 2012.
Alabama’s 1st District is rated a Safe Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.