MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said Friday he's disappointed Gov. Robert Bentley has abandoned him, but it shouldn't affect the outcome of his re-election bid.
Bentley held a conference call with members of the Republican Executive Committee Thursday evening, where he endorsed Birmingham attorney Matt Fridy for the party's top leadership job. Bentley backed Armistead when he was elected two years ago, but he said Fridy is the better choice to unite the party for the 2014 elections. That's when Alabama voters will pick the governor, several other constitutional officers and Legislature.
"I'm disappointed to see the governor abandon a friend who's been with him from the election to today," Armistead said Friday. He said he has worked to unite the party, and it is others who have been divisive. He declined to name them publicly, saying it wouldn't help the party.
The State Republican Executive Committee will meet in February to elect a chairman to lead the party for two years.
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and House Speaker Mike Hubbard are also backing Fridy, but Armistead said he's not worried.
"I don't think the majority of the members of the executive committee are influenced by elected officials telling them how to vote," he said.
Paul Reynolds, who serves on the executive committee and represents Alabama on the Republican National Committee, said Armistead might overcome opposition from one major state official because people would consider that just a clash of personalities. "But it's difficult to overcome when a myriad of elected officials are supporting your opponent," Reynolds said.
Former party chairman Elbert Peters of Huntsville said Friday he hasn't decided which candidate to support, but endorsements from elected officials don't influence him. "I'd rather make up my mind based on what's in the best interest of the party," he said.
Armistead said he is running on his record of helping the party sweep the last Democrat out of statewide office in November and winning offices in counties that have traditionally voted Democrat.
Armistead, a former state senator and former GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, got elected two years ago by defeating state Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery, who was backed by Hubbard.
Armistead ran against Ivey earlier this year for the chairmanship of Alabama's delegation to the Republican National Convention. Ivey, who led Mitt Romney's campaigns in Alabama in 2008 and 2012, defeated Armistead for that post.