Republicans accuse Sparks of "Write in Byrne" campaign

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email
Updated by: John Shryock - bio | email

Montgomery, AL (WSFA) - There are two candidates on the ballot for the state's top office -Robert Bentley (R) and Ron Sparks (D), but voters can also write in a name in any race.

Now, there's an online movement encouraging voters to do that in the governor's race, and Republicans are pointing fingers at who is responsible.

The Republican Party says Democrats are behind the website, citing records showing that a Sparks staffer purchased the domain on October 23. They say it's an effort to take votes away from Robert Bentley, a charge Sparks denies.

The web address' "Byrne" refers to one-time GOP primary frontrunner Bradley Byrne who lost the nomination to Bentley in a runoff.

"I don't know of anybody in my campaign that started it. I would hope that people would be pushing to vote for me, not Bradley Byrne. I have a lot of respect for him, but he is not in this race," Ron Sparks said.

"It wouldn't surprise me because that is party politics, but I don't suspect that to be the issue," said Dr. Byrdie Larkin, Coordinator of the Political Science Department at Alabama State University. Larkin doesn't believe Sparks would even benefit from the write in campaign. "I don't think write in campaigns are effective, so I don't see the Democrats as doing this. I think they think they feel they have enough spark, if I can use that pun."

In a close race, however, votes siphoned away from one candidate to a write-in candidate could potentially give the candidate in the second party the win.

Potential voters have mixed opinions.

"I don't know who is behind it, but I think it would probably help the Democrats more than it would help Republicans," said Stephan Barnes of Montgomery.

"I think it's certainly the people's right to write in the candidate of their choice. I just don't know if there is any benefit. I think they would just be diluting the vote for their party," said Doug Dillard, also of Montgomery.

Bradley Byrne issued a statement Friday telling folks that he will be voting for Robert Bentley, and he encourages his supporters to vote for Bentley as well. "I'm disappointed that the Sparks campaign would stoop as low as to fraudulently give the appearance that this effort was being run on my behalf. These types of tactics further prove the desperation of the Democrats in Alabama and I call on them to take down this sham website immediately," Byrne said through a statement from the GOP.

©2010 WSFA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.