MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–In a congressional race featuring two deacons from First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Democrat Bobby Bright narrowly defeated Republican Jay Love to represent Alabama’s 2nd District. Bright, a popular three-term mayor of Montgomery who is pro-life, became the first Democrat to win the seat in 44 years.
“Bobby and Jay are both authentic followers of Jesus Christ who have used their leadership abilities to benefit the body of Christ, our city and the state of Alabama,” Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Montgomery, said in a statement to Baptist Press Nov. 5.
“Motivated by the call of Christ to be unselfish givers in a world of takers, these men have offered themselves as public servants. I admire and commend them for their willingness to climb this steep and thorny mountain of the election process,” Wolf added.
With more than 98 percent of the votes counted Wednesday morning, Bright had 50.3 percent of the vote compared to Love’s 49.7 percent, the Associated Press reported.
Despite the two men serving as deacons at a prominent church, some media outlets reported that both campaigns took on a harsh tone. The Montgomery Advertiser said the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $1 million in the Republican-leaning district as part of their hard-fought battle to gain more seats.
“They have been engaged in a heated battle where there is a great deal on the line plus the contribution of their respective parties,” Wolf said of the candidates. “It reminds me of two opposing college football teams who try to knock out their opponents on the gridiron, but when the game is over, the Christian brothers gather at midfield, embrace, kneel and pray.
“Bobby and Jay have been Christian competitors and, after a tough battle, they have the capacity to embrace, kneel and pray on the common ground of serving God’s purpose with their lives,” Wolf told BP.
Love called Bright to concede Tuesday night and congratulated him on running a good race, The Advertiser said. The Republican also told the newspaper he was proud of the way his campaign was run.
“We put everything we could into this race,” Love said. “We felt all along it would be a close race. I am not regretting anything we did or didn’t do. I am just sorry we fell 1,700 votes short.”
Love is serving his second term in the state legislature after a successful career as a businessman. He purchased a Subway restaurant franchise 18 months after graduating from college and owned 16 stores before selling them in 2006. He and his wife Cheri have four young children.
Bright, meanwhile, had never run for public office until 1999 when he defeated longtime Montgomery Mayor Emory Folmar. One of 14 children in a sharecropper’s family, Bright considered himself the underdog in the race with Love and promised to be an independent voice in Washington, according to the AP.
Steven Taylor, a political scientist at Troy University in Alabama, said Bright’s victory could be attributed to his conservative message.
“He just ran with an old school blue dog Democrat message,” Taylor told AP.
Bright said Wednesday morning he thought the victory came because “we stayed focused on the issues and showed the people of the district we cared about them.” Bright and his wife Lynn, a retired Montgomery County District Court judge, have three adult children.
In his statement to Baptist Press, Wolf congratulated both men “for their faith, courage and willingness to serve.”
“As Bobby prepares to shoulder the task of going to Washington and engage in governing, we will cover him with intercessory prayer and offer him our encouragement and support,” Wolf said. “Now that the race is over, the real work begins. I would urge the body of Christ to activate 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and pray for our elected public servants and for our nation as we peacefully install new leaders for a new day.”
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.