Alabama representative wins runoff, past position on Trump a key issue

PHOTO: Rep. Martha Roby speaks during a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, June 28, 2016.CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images, FILE
Rep. Martha Roby speaks during a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, June 28, 2016.

Alabama congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Ala., defeated a primary challenge Tuesday night from former congressman and mayor of Montgomery, Bobby Bright.

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In October 2016, less than one day after the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape was uncovered by the Washington Post, Roby became one of the first prominent Republicans to announce she would not vote for Donald Trump as a result.

Two years later, the decision did not prevent her from winning her runoff in the GOP primary in Alabama's 2nd Congressional District, where she claimed victory Tuesday after falling well short of a majority in the first round of voting back on June 5.

Roby’s win over Bright, a former Democrat now running as a Republican, kept her from joining Reps. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.; Mark Sanford, R-S.C.; and Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.; incumbents from both parties who have fallen victim to upstart primary challengers.

PHOTO: Former congressman Bobby Bright speaks in Enterprise, Ala., May 30, 2018. Kim Chandler/AP, FILE
Former congressman Bobby Bright speaks in Enterprise, Ala., May 30, 2018.

Despite Bright's past as a member of the Democratic Party, he has became an ardent supporter of the president, who has criticized Roby's 2016 "Never Trump" position, characterizing her stance as an act of "disloyalty."

"Donald Trump's behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president, and I won't vote for him," said Roby in her October 2016 statement. "As disappointed as I've been with his antics throughout this campaign, I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party. Now, it is abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket."

"Hillary Clinton must not be president, but, with Trump leading the ticket, she will be," concluded Roby, in a prediction that would turn out to be incorrect.

Any animosity between the president and congresswoman over her decision appears to have been buried, as Trump endorsed Roby in late June. Trump also went so far as to attack Bright for his vote to elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House while a Democratic member of Congress in 2009.

"Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda," the president tweeted. "She is in a Republican Primary run-off against a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat. I fully endorse Martha for Alabama 2nd Congressional District!"

Bright responded to the endorsement shortly after, chalking Trump's decision up to politics.

"It appears the D.C. powerbrokers have gotten to the president on this issue. It’s truly a swamp of insiders controlled by big money special interests," Bright said in a statement, adding that the endorsement wouldn't prevent his continued backing of Trump. "I support President Trump and his America First agenda. I always will. He can count on me to be his partner to build the Wall, promote peace through strength, and work for prosperity for all."

Other noteworthy runoffs in Alabama Tuesday include the Republican primary races for lieutenant governor and attorney general, which have attracted influential outsiders in the campaigns' final days.

At 9:30 E.T., the lieutenant governor’s race was in an almost dead heat, with state Rep. Will Ainsworth barely leading Twinkle Cavanaugh, 50.34 percent to 49.66 percent.

It was also too early to call the attorney general’s race, although incumbent Attorney General Steve Marshall was leading former State Attorney General Troy King, 58 percent to 42 percent.

On Monday, former Trump political adviser Roger Stone stumped for Troy King, who is challenging incumbent Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, after the pair finished in the top two of a tight first round that saw all four Republican candidates receive over 20 percent of the vote. Marshall, who is seeking his first election to the post after being appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley, has been boosted by events with fellow state attorney generals, including Florida's Pam Bondi, a close ally of the president.