Establishment Republicans face tea party conservatives in an Alabama special congressional primary runoff Tuesday, in what could be a telling test of which side is prevailing in the latest chapter of the GOP's civil war.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has stepped in to back former state Sen. Bradley Byrne against conservative upstart Dean Young for the state's 1st Congressional District. The Mobile-area seat was vacated by Jo Bonner, who resigned in August to become vice chancellor of the University of Alabama.
The winner is expected to handily prevail in the Dec. 17 special election against Democrat Burton LeFlore.
"We are sending a message here today, and we will send a message in every single one of these races. Some will be in primaries, some will be in general elections," Rob Engstrom, the Chamber's national political director, said Monday, according to Bloomberg.
In the immediate aftermath of the partial government shutdown, the Chamber pledged it would take an active role in the 2014 elections and pour money into races to back traditional pro-business Republicans. The organization blames tea-party groups for the economic fallout which, they say, harmed businesses.
Byrne won the September primary
with 18,090 votes to Young's 12,011. But with seven other Republican candidates, he did not come close to the 50 percent needed to avoid the runoff.
Polls show the race is too close to call, even though the Chamber has spent almost $200,000 to support Byrne. Young's operation has been a one-man show, according to The Hill.
Alabama state Republican Party chairman Bill Armistead predicts the outcome will come down to turnout.
"It'll depend on who will be most successful in motivating their base, the business base versus the tea-party base," he told Bloomberg.
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