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Alabama’s Republican primary was an unmitigated disaster for the AEA

Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry
Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry

The months leading up to last night’s Alabama Republican primary elections were engulfed by a tsunami of negative advertising. The ads, which were delivered to voters via television, direct mail, radio, the Internet and over the phone, were designed to drown Republican incumbents with wave after wave of attacks. Many of them were paid for directly by the Alabama Education Association (AEA), others were funded by a couple of groups widely believed to be fronts for the AEA created to hide their involvement from voters.

In all, the AEA spent roughly $7 million this primary season. $7 million worth of teachers’ dues was spent with the sole purpose of eroding the current Republican supermajority.

So what did $7 million buy them?

Zero statewide races. Zero state senate races. And only a handful of state house races.

AEA successfully took down incumbent Republican House members Richard Baughn (HD14), Wayne Johnson (HD22), Charles Newton (HD90), Bill Roberts (HD13) and Kurt Wallace (HD42).

But those AEA wins were in many ways offset by defeats in races they thought they had in the bag going into election day, but ultimately couldn’t push over the finish line.

For instance, AEA consultants were confident that incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) was going down, but he ended up winning comfortably by 6 points.

They also thought they were in good shape in east Alabama where long-time Democrat-turned-Republican senator Gerald Dial was struggling to beat back challenger Tim Sprayberry. The race was so close that many outlets, including Yellowhammer, believed at one point during the night that Dial had lost. But when all the votes were counted he had won by about 400 votes.

RELATED: ALGOP Chairman: AEA is ‘invading’ Republican primaries

Up in north Alabama, AEA believed they had a sure-fire victory with Republican state representative Todd Greeson, an AEA ally, stepping up to run for the open senate seat in District 8. They pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Greeson’s campaign, only to see him fall to conservative businessman Steve Livingston by 12 points.

In the Wiregrass, the AEA was 0 for 2. They sent hundreds of thousands of dollars down to challenger Garreth Moore, only to watch him lose by 16 points to incumbent senator Jimmy Holley. And they spent a half-million dollars to drag state representative Barry Moore through the mud, but didn’t even come close to beating him at the ballot box.

In statewide races, they supported Stan Cooke’s ill-fated challenge of Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, and Jim Perdue’s third-place finish in the race for secretary of state.

The list could go on and on.

But the highest profile races of the primary were the AEA’s challenges to Republican House and Senate leaders Mike Hubbard and Del Marsh. They spent an unprecedented amount of money to take down the GOP’s top two legislators, but lost both races by 20 points. In Hubbard’s race, the AEA spent somewhere in the neighborhood of a whopping $500 per vote.

So, again, what did $7 million in teachers’ hard-earned money buy the AEA’s political operation?

Not much.

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