- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - After losing several close races, Mobile attorney Jim Zeigler won the Republican nomination for state auditor Tuesday night over retired Hoover businessman Dale Peterson.

In other Republican runoffs, challenger Chris “Chip” Beeker Jr. upset incumbent Terry Dunn for Place 2 on the Alabama Public Service Commission, while state Rep. John Merrill of Tuscaloosa defeated former Montgomery County Probate Judge Reese McKinney for the nomination for secretary of state.

The Democratic Party didn’t have any runoffs Tuesday for offices elected statewide.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Zeigler had 65 percent of the vote to Peterson’s 35 percent.

Zeigler is seeking to return to public office after serving one term on the PSC from 1974-1978. Since then he has run for several public offices, including one previous race for auditor. He always lost, but the races were usually so close that he earned the nickname “Mr. 49 Percent.” Celebrating at his home with friends, Zeigler said his old nickname won’t work anymore.

“This is not just a political turnaround. This is a political resurrection. They can call me Lazarus because I’ve risen from the political dead,” he said.

Peterson, a Shelby County businessman, is best known for becoming a YouTube sensation during his unsuccessful race for state agriculture commissioner in 2010. He posted a campaign ad where he rode a horse, toted a gun and promised to go after the thugs and criminals in Montgomery. In his race for state auditor, he drew more attention for two shoplifting cases pending against him in Jefferson County Circuit Court. He said both were the results of misunderstandings.

Zeigler faces Miranda Joseph of Montgomery in November.

The incumbent, Samantha Shaw, is retiring from politics.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting in the Alabama Public Service Commission race, Beeker polled 59 percent to Dunn’s 41 percent.

Beeker picked up endorsements from several business groups that labeled Dunn as a tool for environmental groups trying to close coal-fired generation plants. The attacks on Dunn stemmed from the first-term commissioner criticizing Alabama Power’s rates as being too high and calling for the first formal rate hearings for Alabama Power in 30 years. He couldn’t get his two PSC colleagues to go along, but the PSC held informal hearings that produced a new rate structure for Alabama Power. The state’s largest electric utility said the plan will keep rates flat through this year and reduce the size of future increases.

“This election was a referendum on the liberal environmentalists trying to invade our state and a win for the Alabama consumers,” Beeker said at a victory party in Tuscaloosa.

Dunn, who watched election returns at home, said the results were discouraging, but “I will continue to do the job as best I can until my service is complete.”

Beeker was making his second run for the PSC, having lost the Republican primary to Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh in 2010. He served 20 years on the Greene County Commission and owns a catfish and cattle farm in Eutaw.

The Republican nomination is tantamount to election because no Democrat is running in the general election Nov. 4.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting in the race for secretary of state, Merrill won with 53 percent to McKinney’s 47 percent.

Merrill, a bank executive and first-term legislator, was making his first run for statewide office. McKinney was trying to get back into public office after losing his re-election bid for probate judge in 2012.

Their race focused on records. McKinney said he had always been a Republican while Merrill had run as a Democrat for the Legislature in 2002 before switching to the GOP. Merrill said he had a record of supporting conservative issues pushed by the Republican majority in the Legislature, while McKinney had no voting record to show voters.

The Republican nominee faces Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler of Mobile in November.

The incumbent, Jim Bennett, was appointed by the governor last July to fill a vacancy in the office, and he did not run.

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