BY PHILLIP RAWLS
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Alabama Republican Party re-elected Bill Armistead as chairman Saturday despite a campaign by the governor and other top Republicans to oust him.
The State Republican Executive Committee chose Armistead over challenger Matt Fridy. Armistead received about 60 percent of the vote.
Fridy, an attorney from Montevallo, drew support from Gov. Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Armistead, a former state senator from Columbiana, had the backing of Chief Justice Roy Moore.
Bentley was in Birmingham on Saturday to rally support for Fridy, but he left before the voting. Immediately after the vote, he sent Armistead a message said he would continue to work with him.
Moore said he supported Armistead because he treated him fairly when he challenged and beat Bentley's hand-picked chief justice, Chuck Malone, in the Republican primary last year. He said previous party leaders had not treated him fairly in prior elections. "I've had to fight the people trying to seize power in this election," he said.
Fridy and his supporters said the party's fundraising had dropped during Armistead's two-year term because he had divided the party by putting the focus on himself, rather than the party's elected officials.
"If you can't increase your fundraising when Barrack Obama is at the top of the ticket, there is a problem and it needs to be fixed," Fridy told the executive committee.
Armistead told the committee that he led the party to major successes in the November election, including defeating the last Democrat in a statewide office and winning courthouse offices in traditionally Democratic counties.
He said the effort to defeat him stemmed from an audit he had performed of Hubbard's tenure as party chairman during the 2010 election. That audit showed that more than $80,000 in party funds went to an Auburn printing company, where Hubbard is one of the owners.
Former state appeals court judge Mark Montiel, who voted for Armistead, said elected officials were trying to grab control of the party to try to discourage any opposition in the Republican primary in 2014. Most major state offices, including governor and lieutenant governor, and the entire Legislature are up for election in 2014.
Armistead was elected in February 2011 with support from Bentley and Ivey, but Hubbard backed Armistead's opponent.