Conservative policy analyst Gary Palmer came from far behind Tuesday to defeat state Rep. Paul DeMarco in the Republican runoff in Alabama’s 6th congressional district.
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting in unofficial returns, Palmer had 47,491 votes or 64 percent to DeMarco’s 27,295 votes or 36 percent. Palmer was comfortably ahead in all six counties in the central Alabama district, which includes Bibb, Shelby, Chilton and Coosa counties as well as portions of Blount and Jefferson counties.
The results were a turnaround from the primary, when DeMarco easily outdistanced Palmer and five other candidates to replace the retiring GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus, the senior member of Alabama’s House delegation.
Palmer will face Democrat Avery Vise on Nov. 4 in what’s considered one of the safest GOP districts in the nation.
Palmer said his campaign was supported by prayer.
“Politics shouldn’t be a career. It should be a mission,” he told supporters gathered in Birmingham.
DeMarco, 46, easily led a seven-person primary field in June with nearly 33 percent of the vote. Running from behind after receiving less than 20 percent of the primary vote, the 59-year-old Palmer tried to sway voters who supported other primary candidates to make up the difference.
Both men portrayed themselves as committed conservatives who will oppose President Barack Obama on issues including health care and federal spending.
DeMarco, an attorney, has been in the Alabama House since 2005 and served as chairman of the influential Judiciary Committee. He congratulated Palmer and thanked supporters in a tweet.
“As conservative Americans let’s work together for a better future,” DeMarco said.
Palmer has not held elective office, but he founded the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank, more than two decades ago. In 1999, Palmer was active in the successful fight to defeat a state lottery for education proposed by then-Gov. Don Siegelman, a Democrat.
The 6th District includes the heavily populated suburbs surrounding Birmingham and stretches into rural areas north and south of the metropolitan area.
With runoff turnout far lighter than during the primary, the outcome apparently hinged on which candidate did the best job motivating a relatively small number of supporters. While DeMarco’s campaign signs were prevalent outside polling places during the primary, Palmer signs were more common during the runoff.
Jerry Gilliland was part of a slow trickle of voters at a recreation center in Clanton. He wouldn’t reveal which candidate he supported but said he had a reason.
“I’m friends with both of them, and I had to do some praying about whom to vote for,” said Gilliland.