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Strange, Wallace in lieutenant governor runoff

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Political newcomer Luther Strange led Tuesday but couldn't avoid a runoff against one of Alabama's most venerable political names, George Wallace Jr., in the race for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting statewide in the unofficial count, Strange had 206,068, or 48 percent, to 144,025, or 34 percent, for Wallace, a member of the Public Service Commission. Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks had 67,455 votes, or 16 percent, and Vestavia Hills cabinet maker Hilbun Adams 12,332, or 3 percent.

Without winning a majority, Strange will face Walace in a runoff primary July 18.

A Birmingham attorney, Strange did not have the name recognition of Wallace, the son of former Govs. George C. and Lurleen Wallace, but received heavy donations from business interests and ran a strong campaign of television ads that referred to him as "Big Luther" and poked fun at his 6-foot-9 frame.

University of Alabama political scientist William Stewart said the clever ads and a large campaign warchest helped Strange get his name in front of the voters enough to challenge Wallace.

Stewart compared Strange's campaign to that of former Gov. Fob James, who was a mostly unknown businessman before winning the 1978 governor's race against some of the best recognized politicians in the state.

"It was an extremely effective advertising campaign," Stewart said. "He was an unknown and he caputured the people's immagination. He put forward a message that was popular with the voters."

The winner of the Republican Primary faces Democratic former Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. in the November general election.

Wallace has served two terms as state treasurer and is in his second term on the Public Service Commission. But he trailed Strange in campaign fundraising.

He said Tuesday night that during the runoff he would continue his push for ethics reform if he is in the runoff with Strange.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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