Election Finally Ends In Alabama

Bob Riley meets with media in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on 11/7/02. As the dispute over the election results simmered, both Riley and incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman claimed victory and made plans for a new administration.
Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman conceded the Alabama governor's race to Republican Rep. Bob Riley on Monday after a nearly two-week legal battle that divided the state.

Siegelman announced his decision to end his quest for a recount at the state Capitol, surrounded by staff and supporters. The announcement clears the way for Riley's inauguration Jan. 20, when he will become Alabama's third Republican governor since Reconstruction.

It was the last governor's race to be decided, and it gave the GOP another Southern statehouse and a 26-24 advantage over Democrats nationally.

Siegelman said he felt he could have won under a recount, but it would have taken months and "a prolonged election controversy would hurt Alabama."

On election night, Siegelman initially led in unofficial returns and called on Riley to concede. But Riley jumped in front when Baldwin County officials reduced Siegelman's total by nearly 7,000 votes, saying a computer glitch in their election system had overstated his returns.

County officials certified returns Nov. 8 showing Riley leading by 3,117 votes, or 0.23 of a percentage point, out of more than 1.3 million cast.

Siegelman's supporters immediately petitioned for a recount in every county, a move opposed by Riley's lawyers and Republican Attorney General Bill Pryor. The Alabama Supreme Court had been considering the legality of a recount when Siegelman made his decision.

Siegelman said that even if the Alabama Supreme Court had allowed a recount, it would have been appealed to federal courts. ``Every question would mean a new court suit,'' he said.

"So for the good of the state of Alabama, for the good of our people, I am dropping my request for a recount,'' Siegelman said.

Siegelman called Riley to personally inform him of the decision.

In his announcement, Siegelman said that "serious questions'' had been raised about the vote returns in Baldwin County, a Republican stronghold. He said the GOP district attorney in the county "threatened to put everyone in jail'' who tried to conduct a recount.

He also said Riley had "blocked a recount at every turn" and that 13 days after the vote, not a single ballot had been recounted.

Siegelman said that while his lawyers felt his chances in the fight were excellent, he decided not avoid "a long, divisive fight."

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.