MONTGOMERY — Republican Guy Hunt defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. William Baxley for governor, gaining a seat held by retiring Gov. George Wallace for four terms and by the Democrats for 112 years.
Hunt led Baxley 56% to 44%.
But freshman Sen. Jeremiah Denton could not hold on to his seat for the GOP, losing by a 20,000-vote margin to Rep. Richard C. Shelby.
Denton, who in 1980 became the first Republican senator from Alabama this century, had a large early lead in opinion polls but that nearly evaporated in the closing days of his campaign. The retired rear admiral, who spent 7 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, ardently supports President Reagan. The conservative Shelby, 52, depicted Denton as out of touch with Alabama and a foe of Social Security.
Hunt, 53, a farmer who lost the race for governor in 1978 by 400,000 votes, vaulted into contention when the Democrats booted Atty. Gen. Charles Graddick off the ticket in August for courting illegal crossover Republican votes in the primary. The nomination went to Baxley instead, but only after court orders and a divisive party election hearing.
Graddick, who depicted Baxley as an outdated liberal, then launched a write-in campaign, but he abandoned it last week after failing to attract sufficient support.