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Four Things To Watch In Alabama's Primaries

With an open race for the governor's mansion and two seats Democrats picked up in 2008, Alabama is home this year to some of the most competitive and fascinating races in the country. Some of the intrigue will surface June 1 in primaries that will define the November races. So, here are four things to watch in Alabama on Tuesday:

The Reverse Specter?

Most political observers have had their eyes peeled on the 5th District GOP primary race since freshman Rep. Parker Griffith switched from the Democratic to Republican Party in December. The interest only increased since the defeat of Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary earlier this month, a year after switching parties. Griffith was elected to this 61%-McCain district by a 3-point margin.

Luckily for Griffith, there is no video (that we know of) of him stating that political survival was the sole reason for switching parties. But many Republican primary voters will likely believe that anyway, and they remember his attacks on Republican Wayne Parker from the recent past of 2008. While his GOP congressional colleagues support him, both vocally and financially, it's still unclear whether that has resonated on the ground.

Challenging Griffith are Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks and businessman Les Phillip, whose TV ad went viral for its kicker, "They're not going to call me a racist." Both have received endorsements from local tea party groups, and both trail Griffith -- who's dropped $250,000 of his own cash -- in the money race by significant margins.

AL-2, or is it ID-1?

Republicans perhaps came out of Idaho's 1st District primary this week with a stronger general election candidate to take on freshman Democrat Walt Minnick, whose voting record ranks him as the most independent member of Congress. But, the winner was tea party-backed and the loser was a top recruit by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which featured him in the top tier of its "Young Guns" program.

Well, Alabama's 2nd District, which gave John McCain nearly an identical winning percentage (63%), is starting to play out in an incredibly similar fashion. Only Minnick has voted with his party less often than freshman Democrat Bobby Bright (according to the Washington Post's Votes Database). And Bright will likely be challenged in November by either Martha Roby, an NRCC Young Gun, or Rick Barber, who's been endorsed by tea party groups and RedState.com's Erick Erickson.

Roby has been a Montgomery City Councilwoman since 2003 and goes into Tuesday's primary with a dominant fundraising edge. Barber claims a more grassroots approach to the campaign and hopes things turn out as they did in Idaho.

Roy Moore's Return?

Four years ago, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore ran against Alabama's sitting governor, Bob Riley, in the Republican primary. When Moore first considered the race, Riley's numbers were hardly intimidating. But his standing solidified by the time election day rolled around, and Moore failed to gain any traction. He lost by a margin of 2-to-1.

Now, with Riley term-limited, Moore is once again running for governor. But he's hardly the favorite in a crowded GOP field that includes former state Sen. Bradley Byrne and Tim James, son of former Gov. Fob James. Byrne appears to be the frontrunner, both in polling and fundraising. James has drawn attention in the closing weeks for his call to end offering state drivers exams in 12 languages. "This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it," James says in an ad.

As for Moore? He's most known to state voters for refusing to remove a display of the Ten Commandments from state property while serving on the bench. In this race, it's the Tenth Amendment that he's focused on, a hallmark of the tea party movement that believes the federal government has too much power. He's also released an economic development plan centered on cutting taxes, but opposes plans to institute a state lottery. But like his 2006 campaign, he's struggling to gain widespread appeal. But if polling holds up, he may qualify for an expected runoff election on July 13.

Davis Looks To Make History

If Artur Davis wins Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary, he'll ensure the November general election stands out beyond the state line. Davis, a Congressman representing the 7th district, would look to make history as the first African American governor in a state that was a hotbed in the struggle for civil rights.

Davis has maintained a lead throughout the race, and was one of a small number of non-incumbent Democratic candidates feted as a top-tier candidate at the Democratic Governors Association's winter gala. But he's staked out conservative positions with an eye to the fall contest, leaving an opening for Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. For instance, Davis voted against health care reform, the signature legislative initiative of his friend, Barack Obama. Davis was the first Congressman not from Illinois to endorse the future president.

Despite the attention his candidacy would bring from outside the state, Davis would likely be a distinct underdog no matter who emerges from the Republican field. Any Democrat, despite the party's historical strength in the state, would struggle; a Democratic Congressman in an anti-Washington year faces an even steeper hurdle. And race would inevitably be a factor as well, if an unspoken one.

YouTube Sensation

As a bonus, we'd be remiss if we didn't note one final storyline heading into Tuesday's vote -- this ad for Dale Peterson, a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner.

He faces two other Republicans in the race to succeed Sparks.

-- Kyle Trygstad & Mike Memoli