Strange defeats Wallace in runoff

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY (AP) – Luther Strange, a first-time candidate with powerful fundraising skills, defeated George Wallace Jr. for the Republican runoff for lieutenant governor Tuesday night and possibly ended the long political career for the offspring of two governors.

With 89 percent of the precincts reporting statewide, the unofficial count showed Strange pulled 95,959 votes, or 55 percent, and Wallace with 79,920 votes, or 45 percent.

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The winner advances to the general election Nov. 7 against Democratic nominee Jim Folsom Jr., a former governor trying to restart his political career after 12 years in the investments business.

Wallace, the only son of Governors George and Lurleen Wallace, began making speeches for his father when 6 years old and spent 16 years in elective office. But when the 54-year-old candidate conceded Tuesday night, he indicated the days of following in his parents’ footsteps are over.

“For me as a political candidate, that chapter is probably closed, but my heart will always belong to Alabama,” Wallace said.

Wallace was trying to win the office that has become the stepping stone to the governor’s office. Since 1966, three lieutenant governors have become governor and all the others have run for the state’s top office.

For Wallace, it was his third major loss – Congress in 1992 and lieutenant governor in 1994 and this year.

“Usually when you lose two high-profile races, that’s pretty much it… It’s going to be difficult for him to run for another high-profile office,” said Jess Brown, a political science professor at Athens State University.

Wallace picked up an endorsement from Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks, who finished third in the primary due to a strong showing in the Huntsville area, but Strange led Wallace in the critical north Alabama county. Strange also ran strongly in heavily Republican Jefferson, Shelby, Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Strange, a 53-year-old lawyer and lobbyist from Mountain Brook, was making his first race for public office.

“People really want to see change in Montgomery. The fact I’m not part of the Montgomery establishment and have not held office before is an advantage for me,” Strange said at a victory party in Birmingham.

Although new to the ballot, Strange had worked in many Republican campaigns and used that skill to outdistance Wallace nearly 3-to-1 in fundraising.