BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Atty. Gen. Charles Graddick savored a narrow victory Wednesday in the bitter struggle for the Democratic nomination for governor, but a party leader said an independent count would be needed to validate the results.
Graddick celebrated his apparent victory over Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley with a pilgrimage to the bedside of ailing Gov. George C. Wallace, whose 30-year domination of Alabama politics will end on Election Day.
The Democratic primary winner is virtually certain of winning in November. The Republican nominee, Guy Hunt, is given little chance of becoming Alabama's first GOP governor in this century.
With 100% of the vote counted unofficially, Graddick clung to less than a 1% lead, with 466,581 votes to Baxley's 459,979 votes.
Black Support Snubbed
Democratic Party Chairman John Baker, saying the margin of victory in the runoff primary could drop to 4,000 votes, said he had asked an independent accounting firm to count the tallies.
Graddick, the law-and-order former Republican who snubbed black support and Democratic Party leaders, demanded that the ballot boxes be impounded, saying he feared foes would steal his victory.
"There are many instances of alleged vote fraud and misconduct at the polls," said Graddick spokeswoman Janie Nobles, who claimed the campaign has pictures of violations in some counties and that blacks who supported Graddick were intimidated.
His demand was the latest complication in an election already threatened by a legal challenge sparked by Graddick's decision as attorney general that Republicans could cross over and vote for him in the primary.
Baker, in an unprecedented public criticism of the party's top candidate, accused Graddick of throwing up a smoke screen by issuing an opinion against the ban on crossover voting.
Baxley, who refused to concede, contemplated a challenge to the Republican votes while awaiting a judge's ruling on the Democrats' contention that the primary is a closed election.