County makes mark on primary

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

LINDEN &045; By 9:30 p.m. the results were in, and state front-runners Barak Obama and Mike Huckabee captured similar victories in Marengo County.

With 26 of 27 precincts reporting &045;all but provisional ballots &045;Democratic presidential hopeful Barak Obama claimed 2,589 votes, or 67 percent compared to Hillary Clinton’s 1,107 votes, or 29 percent. John Edwards was only able to capture 62 votes countywide, or 1.6 percent of the vote.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee claimed 48 percent of the vote with 1,175 votes. Not far behind was John McCain with 1,009 votes county-wide, or 41 percent. All but one of the 10 candidates on the ballot, Tom Tancredo, received at least one vote from voters in Marengo county.

Email newsletter signup

According to Judge of Probate Cindy Neilson, an early look at the voter turnout shows the numbers were up. With approximately 14,000 voters in the county, 6,293 voters &045;nearly 45 percent &045; came out for Super Tuesday.

Across the state, the Associated Press reported Mike Huckabee turned out evangelical voters and Barack Obama captured black and young voters as both won in Alabama’s presidential primaries Tuesday.

Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, defeated Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who ran third. Huckabee, with strong appeal to fellow Southern Baptists, earlier won his home state and Georgia.

Obama, the Illinois senator, defeated New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who did not visit Alabama during the closing days of the primary.

Paul Reynolds, co-chairman of Huckabee’s Alabama campaign, said Huckabee made two trips to Alabama in the closing stretch &045; more than any other candidate &045; and that helped show Alabama Republicans that they had much in common with him.

Reynolds said another major factor in Huckabee’s success was his endorsement of the immigration plan by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

With more than 90 percent of Alabama’s precincts reporting, Huckabee had 41 percent, McCain 38 percent, Romney 18 percent and Ron Paul 3 percent. If those numbers hold, no candidate will cross the 50 percent threshold needed to win all of Alabama’s GOP delegates and they will be divided on a formula.

On the Democratic side, Obama had 56 percent, Clinton 42 percent, and former Sen. John Edwards got 2 percent even though he had dropped out. Under the Democratic Party’s rules, Obama and Clinton will split the Democratic delegates proportionately.

Exit polling underlined Obama’s strong appeal to young people and blacks in Alabama.

Sanders is a founder of the predominantly black Alabama New South Coalition, which provided a key endorsement to Obama after Clinton won the support of the black wing of the Alabama Democratic Party, the Alabama Democratic Conference.

Campaign spokeswoman Amaya Smith said Obama opened more campaign offices across the state and attracted a bigger campaign rally crowd (11,000 in Birmingham) than any other candidate. Those two things helped his campaign put together a large volunteer network.

Obama ran strongest in counties in south and central Alabama with large black populations, while Clinton was tops in largely white counties in north Alabama.

The state’s chief election official, Secretary of State Beth Chapman, said the turnout for Alabama’s first early presidential primary in 20 years appeared higher than the normal in some counties she visited Tuesday.

Chapman had forecast a turnout of 31 percent to 33 percent, and early returns indicated she might be right on target or a little low. The normal for a primary is 20 percent to 25 percent.

Chapman said Alabama was in the national spotlight on Super Tuesday and voters responded.

The Legislature moved Alabama’s primary to early in the campaign season for the first time since 1988. The last four presidential primaries in Alabama have been in June, when the outcome was already known.

More than 58,000 new voters signed up in the three months leading up to Super Tuesday, prompting election officials to prepare for a better-than-average turnout.

Temperatures across the state were spring-like in the 70s and low 80s. Rain, which was forecast for part of the state, held off in most places until after the polls closed at 7 p.m.

Across Alabama, about half of the Democratic voters were black, and Obama won 80 percent of their votes. Exit polling also showed he captured 60 percent of the votes from people under 30, who made up more than one in 10 voters.

Tobias Wilson, a 20-year-old football player at predominantly black Miles College in Birmingham, cast his first presidential vote for Obama.

Obama also got some unexpected votes.

Julie Speaks, a 43-year-old white preschool director in Montgomery, said she normally votes Republican but she supported Obama in the Democratic primary because she dislikes Clinton.

Nina Patel, a 39-year-old housewife from Montgomery, went for Clinton.

In exit polling on the the Republican side, nearly eight in 10 Republican voters described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians, and nearly half of them sided with Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist preacher.

Among them was Jeff McFarland, a 42-year-old Southern Baptist missionary from Montgomery.

McCain’s military background won him some votes in a state that has been among the top states in sending military to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the closing days of the Super Tuesday campaign, all of the major candidates made stops in Alabama except Romney and Clinton, who sent her husband.

In the three months leading up to Tuesday’s primary, 58,341 people signed up to vote. In comparison, 43,702 registered in 2004 and 36,898 in 2000.

The state has about 2.56 million registered voters. The percent turning out for the last four presidential primaries, all held in June, was in the low 20s. In 1988, when the primary was earlier in the campaign, 26 percent voted.

Associated press writer Phillips Rawls contributed to this report.