Wild Senate race has nothing on past Alabama elections

Older voters still remember a political assassination and a giant who seemed to be drunk on live TV

FILE - In this June 16, 2006 file photo, former Alabama Gov. John Patterson reacts to a question about the portrait of his father Albert Patterson, which was unveiled at a ceremony on the front steps of the Russell County Courthouse in Phenix City, Ala. Patterson, a lawyer who fought to eradicate a crime syndicate blamed for illegal gambling, prostitution and other crimes in Phenix City, was assassinated outside his office shortly after winning the Democratic nomination for state attorney general in 1954. Patterson's son John Patterson assumed the nomination and won; a sheriff's deputy was convicted in the slaying. (Roger Hart/Ledger-Enquirer via AP, File)
FILE - In this June 16, 2006 file photo, former Alabama Gov. John Patterson reacts to a question about the portrait of his father Albert Patterson, which was unveiled at a ceremony on the front steps of the Russell County Courthouse in Phenix City, Ala. Patterson, a lawyer who fought to eradicate a crime syndicate blamed for illegal gambling, prostitution and other crimes in Phenix City, was assassinated outside his office shortly after winning the Democratic nomination for state attorney general in 1954. Patterson's son John Patterson assumed the nomination and won; a sheriff's deputy was convicted in the slaying. (Roger Hart/Ledger-Enquirer via AP, File)


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Is the U.S. Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones the oddest campaign ever in Alabama? Hardly.

In a race polls showed was too close to call before Election Day, Moore has had to deny decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls. But that makes the race only the latest in a string of astonishing campaigns in the state.

Alabama, after all, is a place where older voters still remember a political assassination and a giant who seemed to be drunk on live TV. Here’s a look at some of the state’s most notable elections:

ATTORNEY GENERAL, 1954

Phenix City, Alabama, once known as “Sin City of the South,” was the setting for what may be the most infamous episode in state politics.

Albert Patterson, a lawyer who fought to eradicate a crime syndicate blamed for illegal gambling, prostitution and other corruption in the city along the Chattahoochee River, was assassinated outside his office shortly after winning the Democratic nomination for state attorney general in 1954. Patterson’s son John Patterson assumed the nomination and won; a sheriff’s deputy was convicted in the slaying.

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GOVERNOR, 1962

George Wallace won the governorship, setting the stage for years of race-based politics, court fights and violence with his infamous “segregation forever” inaugural speech. Wallace served four terms as governor.

In the 1962 campaign, former Gov. Jim Folsom — a racial moderate known as “Big Jim” because he was 6-foot-8 — finished third after appearing to be intoxicated during a television appearance on election eve. Folsom stumbled and couldn’t recall the names of his own children. He claimed he’d been drugged.

A doctor later speculated the episode could have been caused by the first of a series of strokes Folsom suffered, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.

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GOVERNOR, 1970

The 1970 race between George Wallace and moderate challenger Albert Brewer is generally considered the nastiest in Alabama history. One book even portrayed it as the nation’s dirtiest campaign ever.

With integration still a top issue in the state, Wallace supporters unleased an openly racist campaign against Brewer.

Wallace and his supporters accused Brewer and black leaders of being “strange bedfellows,” and anonymous groups put out materials claiming Brewer’s daughters had children with black men, a shocking charge at the time. One ad showed a white girl surrounded by black boys under the headline “Wake Up Alabama! Blacks Vow to Take Over Alabama.”

Wallace won.

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GOVERNOR, 1986

Electoral chaos in 1986 helped open the door to the Republican Party’s current hold on Alabama.

A Democratic Party committee threw out then-Attorney General Charlie Graddick’s narrow win in the Democratic gubernatorial runoff against then-Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley, ruling GOP voters improperly crossed over to influence the election. In the resulting tumult, Guy Hunt was elected the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

Hunt’s victory, in a way, helped set the stage for Alabama’s current race between Jones and Moore. Since Hunt, conservative white voters have turned on the Democratic Party in such numbers that Jones is viewed by many as a longshot despite the allegations against Moore, which come at a time the nation is grappling with sexual harassment and assault by prominent men.

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GOVERNOR, 2002

Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman and GOP challenger Bob Riley both claimed victory in a tight race after a Republican-run county altered its vote totals in the middle of the night.

Siegelman initially thought he won the election based on totals that showed him getting 19,070 votes in GOP-dominated Baldwin County. But the county said Siegelman’s total was the result of a glitch and officials lowered his total by 6,334 votes, giving Riley the victory statewide.

Siegelman considered seeking a recount but conceded days later, saying that requesting one would have taken months of legal maneuvering.

Riley went on to serve two terms as governor and Siegelman later went to prison after being convicted in a bribery conspiracy. Siegelman blamed the whole criminal case on politics.

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