Self-described outsider Robert Bentley won Alabama’s Republican nomination for governor Tuesday night over establishment candidate Bradley Byrne with a strong showing in rural areas.
In the unofficial count, Bentley had 56 percent of the vote to Byrne’s 44 percent with 83 percent of the precincts reporting.
Bryne ran strong in the state’s four big counties, but Bentley outperformed Byrne in small counties, including areas where Tim James and Roy Moore did well when they ran third and fourth in the June 1 Republican primary.
Bentley, a retired Tuscaloosa physician, was considered a little-known state legislator in a field of seven hopefuls until he made a surprise second-place finish in the primary last month.
The largely self-funded candidate said voters began to notice him when he pledged to serve without pay until Alabama’s near-record unemployment rate drops to normal levels. Then the reassuring bedside manner of a 67-year-old doctor took over as Bentley talked about creating jobs.
“The key to the success of this is our ability to communicate,” Bentley, 67, said.
Byrne called Bentley to congratulate him and said he would vote for Bentley in the general election Nov. 2, when he faces the Democratic nominee, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks.