MONTGOMERY, Ala. – With both candidates for governor claiming victory, Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman and Republican Rep. Bob Riley sent out supporters Wednesday to check vote totals statewide after a dispute arose over the tally in a GOP stronghold.
Most of the attention was focused on Baldwin County, where a revised count threw the race into turmoil.
But "we are investigating all over the state," said Siegelman spokesman Rip Andrews.
Riley aide David Azbell said GOP supporters were fanned out "to make sure our votes don't get stolen."
Election officials in Baldwin County originally showed Siegelman with 19,070 votes, but later reduced his tally to 12,736 — a change that would put Riley in the overall lead.
Siegelman's numbers were lowered after the data cartridges from voting machines were run through computers a second time because of a suspected error. Andrews, his spokesman, said the governor believes his original tally was correct.
Siegelman declared victory at a party in Montgomery, telling supporters, "How sweet it is." Riley also pronounced himself the victor, telling supporters in Talladega: "We win. Alabama's got a new day coming."
Alabama does not have a law providing for an automatic recount in tight races. Instead, a voter can seek a recount with each county canvassing board, but it requires putting up a security bond.
Riley gained momentum in the campaign's final days with accusations the incumbent oversaw a corrupt administration.
Siegelman, 56, has held office in Alabama for 20 years. After reaching the governor's office four years ago, he lured automakers Honda and Hyundai to Alabama and launched the biggest school construction and road building programs in state history.
But ethical problems dogged his administration, with four businessmen — including two major campaign supporters — convicted in ongoing federal and state investigations. Officials have sought some of the governor's financial records.
Riley repeatedly criticized Siegelman for awarding state contracts to friends and contributors, branding the incumbent's term "the most corrupt administration in my adult lifetime."
Riley, 58, ran an egg business, car dealership and trucking company before winning his first of three terms in Congress in 1996. Siegelman criticized the congressman for his failure to pay property taxes and condominium fees on time in Alabama and Florida, and for posting the fourth-worst attendance record of any current member of Congress since 1995.
The campaign has been Alabama's most expensive ever, with Riley spending $12.6 million and Siegelman $9.6 million before the campaign's final weekend.