MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bob Riley defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley on Tuesday night, showing ticket-splitting appeal that helped him become the first Alabama governor to win re-election in 16 years.

For Riley, the election became the opposite of four years ago, when he won by only 3,120 votes over Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman in the closest governor’s race in modern Alabama history.

With 33 percent of the precincts reporting Tuesday night, Riley had 193,927 votes, or 55 percent, and Baxley had 158,968 votes, or 45 percent.

The Republican incumbent’s win resulted, in part, from voters like the Rev. Tony Peoples, who favored Democrats in down-ballot races but saw no need for change at the top of the ticket.

“I like the way things have been going in Alabama, and I’d like the prosperity to continue,” said the 41-year-old pastor of Love Center Full Gospel Baptist Church in Montgomery.

Riley’s record, including a scandal-free administration following his predecessor’s tainted term, swayed many voters.

“This is an honest man, and I’d vote for him any day of the week,” said Joyce Averill, a 53-year-old businesswoman from Montgomery.

Baxley hit Riley with negative ads throughout the campaign, including one accusing him of not paying property taxes, and that tactic worked with some voters.

“The fact that Bob Riley has this stuff coming out about not paying his taxes really played on me,” said Misty Darden, a 32-year-old mother of three from Clanton.

But some voters saw Baxley’s ads as a repeat of the unproven allegations Siegelman used unsuccessfully four years ago.

“I wouldn’t vote for her for anything. She did the same thing as Siegelman, and he’s going to jail,” said Dick Fogle, a 74-year-old retiree from Pelham.

Alabama voters have been hard on incumbent governors in recent years, defeating Democrat Jim Folsom in 1994, Republican Fob James in 1998 and Democrat Don Siegelman in 2002. The last incumbent to win re-election was Republican Guy Hunt in 1990.

But Riley led Baxley by wide margins in the polls and in fundraising from the start of the campaign. Through last week, Riley’s campaign had reported $10.4 million in contributions while Baxley stood at $2.8 million.

Baxley, 68, saw her ex-husband, former Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley, lose races for governor in 1978 and 1986. In 1994, she entered politics, winning two terms as state treasurer before being elected Alabama’s first female lieutenant governor in 2002.

The campaign theme “We Love Lucy” served her well through those 12 years, but she had more trouble in the governor’s race — her first against an incumbent.

Baxley tried to paint Riley with the Washington political scandals that hurt the GOP in other states, including Riley employing now-disgraced lobbyist Michael Scanlon when Riley first served in the U.S. House in 1987. But Riley’s poll numbers only improved.

Riley, 62, served six years in Congress before narrowly winning the governor’s office in 2002 by less than three-tenths of a percent.

In 2003, Riley appeared on his way to being another one-term governor after Alabama voters turned back his $1.2 billion tax plan by a 2-to-1 margin.

But Riley sprang back with his handling of the Hurricane Katrina damage in 2005, and his standing with voters kept growing in 2006 when a rapidly growing state economy plunged Alabama’s unemployment to a record low 3.3 percent and allowed for record funding for public education and an income tax cut for low-income families.

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