Byrne bus tour visits Brewton

Published 4:30 am Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brewton was the 30th stop on a nine-day bus tour for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne, and he told supporters he was counting on their vote to clinch the party nomination in Tuesday’s runoff.

And independent poll released Thursday showed Byrne 20 points behind Robert Bentley, who was the second-place vote-getter in the primary, but Byrne said he believes internal polling that shows the two are neck-and-neck.

“We’ve got the lead; we’ve got the momentum,” Byrne said.

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Byrne, the former chief of the state’s community college system, said the election is historic not only because the governor’s seat is open for the first time since 1986 but also because of the problems the state faces, from unemployment to the gulf oil spill.

“But we’re not going to let the crises stop us or slow us down,” he said. “We have the opportunity to go forward.”

Byrne said he would use his experience leading the community college system to lead the state.

He noted that after budget cuts last year, the community college system cut $70 million from its budget without affecting essential services.

“It showed how we can manage things in a different way,” he said. “State government can do the same.”

Byrne said if elected he would push BP to “make whole” those affected by the gulf oil spill. “That is BP’s responsibility,” he said.

Byrne said he would work closely with the man appointed by the federal government to oversee the $20 million reimbursement fund for the oil spill. “It should have been set up under the coastal governors,” he said of the fund.

Byrne said he believes that forces outside the Republican party are trying to influence the runoff. His campaign has said that Alabama Education Association head Paul Hubbert and other leading Democrats are behind attack ads against him, and last week his campaign called for an investigation into one of the political action committees that has purchased negative advertising.

“Republicans are going to go vote,” he told supporters Friday. “Democrats are not going to pick our nominee.”

Bentley and Byrne both touted endorsements in the race on Friday, with U.S. Reps. Spencer Bachus and Jo Bonner endorsing Byrne and state Sen. Scott Beason endorsing Bentley.

Gov. Bob Riley stopped short of an endorsement but did say he would vote for Byrne on Tuesday.