Crowded ballot may have led voters to nearly elect a candidate disavowed by the GOP

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Alabama voters sent a decisive message on both sides in the governor's race Tuesday, but after that, the picture is cloudier with GOP runoffs in both the Lt. Governor and Attorney General races. And none of those races qualifies as the biggest surprise of election night.

That distinction belongs to the GOP race for a seat on the Alabama Public Service Commission. One of the candidates, Jim Bonner, was disavowed by the Alabama Republican Party last week for comments he'd made that have been described as racist and anti-Semitic, including a Hitler joke. The party told its voters not to vote for him, and that they wouldn't count his votes.

However, Bonner almost won, nearly taking down incumbent Jeremy Oden. Bonner got more than 214,000 votes, just 3,000 less than Oden. Not only that, he got more votes in Madison County than Kay Ivey.

That's within the margin of error for a recount. Bonner said he plans to challenge the GOP's decision and contest the election.

The Alabama GOP Chairman Terry Lathan said Wednesday the decision to disavow Bonner followed careful consideration. She added that if Bonner wants to challenge that decision, he will have to appeal to the full Alabama Republican Party State Executive Committee in August.

Lathan said if he wants a vote recount, he'll have to pay for it.

WHNT News 19  spoke to Bonner via Facebook Wednesday. He said his posts and comments had been taken out of context as part of an effort to discredit his candidacy.

"The truth is, I’m not a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, bigot," he said. "I’m just a wry man with a dry sense of humor who shares articles, memes, and jokes that are meant to encourage debate and discussion. These posts are not driven by hate, but by free speech."

There's no way for sure to know if the views Bonner was cited for helped his Tuesday vote total, but political analyst Jess Brown says no, it's not about Neo-Nazi voters in the GOP primary.

Brown says it's about a very long primary ballot and people not knowing much about either candidate. For instance, there were 17 races that came before the PSC race on the Madison County ballot. Brown says when people aren't sure, they often mark the first name they see in a given race.

Bonner comes before Oden alphabetically.

Brown also says the state can do better. One way to help is to mix up the terms for state offices, so we don't have so many offices and candidates to vote for in one election.