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Democratic Runoff To Succeed Wallace Is Name-Calling Brawl

June 20, 1986 GMT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Next week’s Democratic runoff for governor has turned into a bitter, name- calling brawl that threatens to obscure the ideological contrast of the two men who seek to lead Alabama into the post-George Wallace era.

Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley faces Attorney General Charles Graddick in Tuesday’s runoff election for the Democratic nomination. The winner is virtually assured of the governor’s mansion, since no Republican has won it in 112 years.

Baxley’s backers include black political caucuses and organized labor. Graddick is a conservative friend of big industry and farm bureau interests that want to keep a freeze on business and property taxes.

″The choice in this election is so plain and so clear,″ says Graddick. ″I’m the conservative candidate and he’s the liberal candidate.″

But Baxley says Graddick spouts ″tired old cliches.″ And there have been other labels they have tried to pin on each other:

- Graddick called Baxley ″a liar″ for denying any misuse of state cars. The Birmingham News reported March 30 that Baxley’s trooper-driven state car had been used on several occasions to ferry a woman reporter to and from the Montgomery apartment Baxley shares with five other men when working in the capital.

The News was urged by Graddick to publish evidence showing Baxley lied. On Wednesday, the paper published two pictures that it said showed a Baxley security guard and former Associated Press reporter Marie Prat preparing to get into a Baxley campaign car, not a state car, outside his apartment.

Baxley’s wife, Lucy, launched a series of news conferences, beginning at their Birmingham home, in support of her husband.

″Charlie Graddick and The Birmingham News have seen Bill stand so strong on the issues and on his experience and ability to serve as governor that these shameful tactics have been put into effect against our family,″ she said. She said Baxley ″has in no way violated the trust in our marriage,″ and denied that he had a relationship with the reporter.

- Baxley called Graddick ″a coward″ for pulling out of their third televised debate. Graddick said the debates, among other things, weren’t issue-oriented enough.

- Baxley alleged a payoff when a defeated opponent, former Lt. Gov. George McMillan, cast his lot with Graddick for the runoff. Baxley said McMillan aides had approached the Baxley camp with a promise of support in return for $480,000 to help pay McMillan’s debts. Both Graddick and McMillan denied it.

- Graddick branded Baxley a tax slacker as the attorney general produced 10 years of his own state income tax records and alleged Baxley didn’t pay for several years. Baxley said he had paid every cent of state taxes.

The primary may be pivotal for Alabama in the era after Wallace, who won his first four-year term as an outspoken segregationist but claimed his last term in 1982 with strong help from blacks. He decided in April not to seek a fifth term, mostly because of ill health.

Baxley, 44, was something of a boy wonder when he first won statewide office as attorney general in 1970. He served two terms there. Graddick, 41, is a former Republican who served as a prosecutor on Mobile.

A Graddick radio ad berates Baxley for getting the backing of ″the black politicians.″

Baxley says that fosters the kind of racial divisions that would keep business and industry from coming to Alabama.

Graddick contends his campaign represents all the people, and that it is Baxley who has stoked the embers of the race issue. But Graddick refused to attend the endorsement conventions of the state’s two black political caucuses, and a June 16 Birmingham Post-Herald poll found he was favored by just 6 percent of black voters, while Baxley drew 86 percent.

The survey showed Graddick ahead of Baxley among those who identify themselves as Republicans or independents. Among whites, Graddick drew 57 percent to Baxley’s 36 percent.

Overall, the newspaper’s poll of 429 registered voters selected randomly found Baxley with the support of 49 percent, Graddick with 44 percent and 7 percent undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

In the June 3 primary, Baxley led with 37 percent, followed by Graddick with 29 percent, former Gov. Fob James with 21 percent, McMillan with 12 percent and Barbara Evans O’Neal with less than 1 percent.

The Republican gubernatorial nominee is Guy Hunt.