Let Republicans, not AEA, decide who wins the primary runoff

Published 8:05 pm Thursday, June 10, 2010

How thoughtful of the Alabama Education Association to call its members and let them know that they can vote in the Republican primary runoff election.

If only we could believe the automated calls were being made out of civic-minded concern for increasing voter turnout on July 13, when Bradley Byrne will face either Dr. Robert Bentley or Tim James for the Republican nomination for governor.

But given that the AEA and its union chief, Paul Hubbert, have already spent a good deal of time and money campaigning against Mr. Byrne, we doubt it.

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AEA officials say the calls did not endorse a candidate. But, as Mr. Byrne said, “We know that AEA is trying to hijack the Republican runoff.”

Mr. Byrne’s cleanup of the state’s two-year college system while he was its chancellor, combined with his work to end double-dipping and his opposition to entrenched teacher job protection, put him perpetually at odds with the AEA and Mr. Hubbert.

The AEA, we suspect, would much rather see Dr. Bentley or Mr. James beat Bradley Byrne in the runoff and face Democrat Ron Sparks in the general election. (As of Tuesday night’s unofficial tally, Dr. Bentley led Mr. James by 167 votes for the second spot in the runoff.)

The AEA contributed to Mr. Sparks’ campaign, and political action committees it funds reportedly contributed to a PAC that has run negative television advertising against Mr. Byrne.

Because the Republican primary is an open one, any registered voter can participate in the runoff regardless of whether he or she voted at all in the June 1 election or voted as a Democrat.

The AEA has more than 100,000 members — an influential voting bloc if they choose to answer the “robo-call” and vote as a union rather than as individuals with their own opinions.

That’s all the more reason Republicans should turn out July 13 to support their candidate, lest the Republican primary for governor become the AEA primary.

– Mobile Press-Register