Trump remarks lead to tight race for Roby

Published 3:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2016

WETUMPKA , Ala. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Martha Roby was elected to a fourth term Tuesday night but may have paid a political price for being one of the few Republicans in the Deep South state to speak out against Donald Trump.

Roby was forced into a closer than expected race after 29,000 write-in votes drained support from the GOP incumbent in the wake of her criticisms about Trump.

Roby was victorious over her challenger by about 23,000 votes, a comfortable win. However, it was far short of the 2-1 victory margins enjoyed by most other GOP incumbents on election night in Alabama.

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Unofficial returns compiled by the Alabama secretary of state show that at least 29,000 write-in votes were cast in the conservative 2nd Congressional District that stretches from Montgomery through rural southeast Alabama.

Roby said last month that she could not vote for Trump after recordings surfaced of Trump in 2005 making lewd comments about being about able to grab women because he is famous. “Donald Trump’s behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president, and I won’t vote for him,” Roby said in October. She said Trump should step aside and let a responsible Republican lead the ticket.

“That was the final straw,” William Silaghi, a former air traffic controller and Air Force veteran, said of Roby. Silaghi said he thought Trump’s 9-year-old comments were a lesser concern that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. He urged people to write in Becky Gerritson, a tea party candidate who lost to Roby in the primary. “I hope it sends a message to Mrs. Roby that she better start listening to her constituents,” he said Wednesday.

Roby, in an interview Wednesday, said she did not regret her decision but respected those who differed in opinion.

“I understand that there were people who disagreed with that, and they had the opportunity yesterday to voice that disagreement at the polls,” Roby said. “Whether you voted for me or not, I’m still going to fight for you. I’m still going to listen to you and advocate on your behalf and be there to help when you have a problem,” she said.

“I congratulate Mr. Trump, and I’m not only forward to working with him — I’m eager to get to work,” she said.

Roby’s comments about Trump came without hope of political gain in a state that Trump was expected to easily carry.

Gerritson said she did not start or push the write-in effort on her behalf. Doing so would put her in jeopardy of violating GOP loyalty rules and could make it difficult to run again under the Republican label.

Gerritson — who has now twice lost to Roby — said she is uncertain if she will run again. “I’ve not the closed the door on it,” Gerritson said.