Republicans sweep state elections


Ethan Summers

Alabama’s race for the next governor ended in The Zone Tuesday night.

Republican candidate Robert Bentley won when Democrat Ron Sparks conceded just after 10 p.m. with more than 1,100,000 votes tallied. The margin was 56 percent to 44 percent in Bentley’s favor, reflecting a difference of more than 130,000 votes.

Bentley gave a 15-minute speech in his election night headquarters at The Zone, the three-level lounge at the north end of Bryant-Denny Stadium. He thanked God, his wife, his staff and the people of Alabama and mentioned that his commitment would start work immediately.

Bentley also mentioned Nick Saban’s famous 24-hour rule, where any loss or victory can be mourned or celebrated for no more than 24 hours before moving on to the next challenge. Twenty-four hours is twice as much time as Bentley said he would take.

“The Robert Bentley rule is we’ve got 12 hours, because I’m going to work in the morning at 8 o’clock.”

Karis Lamb, a violinist with the Lamb family of performers and a UA alumna, played throughout the night and came to support Bentley.

Lamb said the experience, though no longer novel, is still good.

“We played for Governor Riley’s inauguration, too, so it’s been a privilege to be part of the political scene.”

Lamb said Bentley’s strong defense of his Christian faith sold her.

“Having a Christian in politics isn’t cool these days,” Lamb said. “He never waivered from that.”

Blake Bell, a Birmingham native who attends college in Mississippi, came out to support Bentley.

“We thought he was a great candidate because he won’t be paid until all Alabamians have a job.”

Bentley’s campaign ran the promise he wouldn’t take a salary until Alabama reached full employment, an economic term meaning that all or almost all of people in an area seeking employment can find employment. Full employment accepts that 3 to 4 percent of the working population will be unemployed due to transitions among industries and in personal lives.

Bell said Bentley’s lack of political experience, a topic that drew some criticism during the campaign, is actually a positive point.

“He’s not your typical career politician,” Bell said. “He’s a new face.”

Sam Watts also attended the celebration and supported Bentley during the campaigning. He said Bentley’s election represents a larger issue in the nation.

“To me, this is a reflection of rejection of the Democrats’ policies in Washington,” Watts said.

“He’s a doctor [and] he’s also a businessman and that gives him great experience,” he said. “Who better than a doctor to know what to do about this health care business?”

Neal Gentry, a Phenix City, Ala., native and businessman, agreed with Watts.

“There’s no merit to that at all,” Gentry said of the idea that Bentley’s profession made him unsuited for politics. “He’s a small business owner and not a professional politician. There’s far too many people in office who have never worked in a business.”

Heather Hannah was Bentley’s scheduler throughout his campaign. His staff has already been gearing up for running the state, she said.

“We’ll start all the transition stuff tomorrow,” she said. “We’ve come a long way from the 2 to 3 percent name recognition we had in September.”

Bentley’s closing statements invited all Alabamians to come meet him and see him at work in Montgomery.

“My door will always be open to you in Montgomery,” Bentley said. “Just don’t all come at the same time.”

Chip Harrison, a member of the University’s College Democrats, said overall, for democrats in Alabama, the Republican win is a disappointment.

“It was expected,” Harrison said. “I was hopeful that Sparks could pull it off, but it was pretty clear that Bentley was the predicted favorite.”

John DuBois, vice president of College Democrats, agreed that it was not really surprising that Bentley was elected.

“Throughout the whole season, Bentley was leading in the polls,” DuBois said.

DuBois said even though he was defeated, Sparks did an admirable job.

“I commend Sparks,” DuBois said. “He did a good job. It was exciting to see Sparks do as well as he did.”

Harrison said by electing another Republican as governor, it portrays the state as being standoffish toward Democrats’ reforms.

DuBois said many Alabamians probably voted for Bentley based on the tradition of Alabama being a conservative, Republican state.

“I voted for Sparks because he had a better plan,” DuBois said. “Sparks had a plan that was written out and I felt like Bentley was like, ‘Hey, we’re going to create jobs but I’m not sure how we’ll do it.’”

DuBois said he hopes Bentley will stay true to his campaign.

“He’s been harping on creating jobs,” DuBois said, “which is something we need. Hopefully the legislature and Bentley can get along well and work together.”

Harrison said since Bentley is from Tuscaloosa, it may be a positive thing for the city.

“Hopefully he will act in the best interest for the state,” Harrison said.