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Barton, Hightower advance to March 12 state senate run-off

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January 31, 2013

Alabama

By Andy Marshall

MONTGOMERY, Alabama:Although outspent by state representative Jim Barton by a factor of more than five to one, small-business owner Bill Hightower took the top spot in the three-way January 29 special election for the open State Senate District 35 seat, coming in ahead of Barton and retired Air Force and airline pilot Nick Matranga. Hightower received 45.6 percent of the votes, followed by Barton with 30 and Matranga with 23 percent. Although all three candidates are Republicans, their primary election became the general election because no candidates of any other party qualified for the ballot. Because Hightower received less than 50 percent, he and Barton will face each other again in the runoff election on March 12. Voter turnout was approximately 7.5 percent of the district's roughly 73,000 registered voters.[1][2]

Barton, a state representative since 2000, spent significantly more than his opponents. An examination of the candidates' financial reports by Robert McClendon of Al.com found that, as of January 28, Barton had spent nearly $328,000 and still had $58,532 on hand. By comparison, Hightower raised $54,600 over the same period, in addition to the $20,000 he loaned to his campaign to get started, and had $13,800 on hand. Largely self-funded, Matranga only spent about $10,000.[3] Both Barton and Hightower have come under fire during the campaign for receiving donations from political action committees connected to the insurance industry.[4][5]

The District 35 special election was caused by the election of then-state senator Ben Brooks (R) as a circuit judge in Mobile County on November 6, 2012.[6] If Barton wins the seat, a special election will be called for the 104th District seat he currently holds in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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