In Alabama’s First Congressional District (Mobile and Baldwin counties, plus other bits of southwest Alabama), Republicans Bradley Byrne and Dean Young are competing to see who will beat the Democratic nominee in this reddest of the state’s red districts.
Some pundits have noted that this election is the struggle for the soul of the GOP, writ small, while others have written that the campaign reveals the Republican “identity crisis.”
Quite possibly, it is both.
Byrne could be the perfect example of the Republican establishment. A business-friendly conservative with an excellent resume of public service, he might be governor today had it not been for a stealth campaign by the Alabama Education Association.
Young, on the other hand, is a brash real estate investor who has been an outspoken supporter of Chief Justice Roy Moore. He has the backing of the Tea Party element, which has been gaining strength in the district.
Recently, the campaign took a nasty turn.
Some Alabamians there are in favor of protecting the Mobile delta by turning it into a national park. Young, quite naturally, opposed this, and when his campaign noticed that Byrne’s daughter, Laura, is a research assistant for Mobile Baykeeper, an organization that keeps a watch on Mobile Bay and its environs, it went on the attack.
One of Young’s supporters accused Byrne’s daughter of being part of a “left-wing environmental group [which], like Bradley, wants to federalize the delta.”
It made little difference that Byrne is on record opposing a delta national park and Baykeeper has not taken a position on the national park idea, but only supports a study that is being undertaken to identify ways to preserve and restore the delta. Up on Facebook the charges went.
Byrne responded by accusing Young of attacking his family. Young distanced himself from what his supporter had done, and the Facebook entry disappeared. But the bad blood between the two sides remains.
And so does the GOP identity crisis, even in Alabama.