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Union's Behind-the-Scenes Campaign in Alabama Governor's Race?

Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Bentley faced a tough primary challenge this summer, and a newspaper says his campaign worked through "back channels" to secure help from a powerful interest group traditionally aligned with Democrats: the state's largest teachers' union.

The Mobile Press-Register is reporting that Bentley reached out for help to the Alabama Education Association during the frantic days leading up to the July vote, in which he sought to hold off GOP contender Bradley Byrne.

The newspaper, based on interviews and e-mails it obtained, chronicles Bentley's campaign securing support from the union, which eventually "pummeled Byrne with a barrage of attack ads and automated phone calls," the story says.

Teachers' unions play a strong role in state elections, and this year is no exception. The vast majority of that backing, however, goes to Democrats. Bentley, as a Republican, would have had good reason to keep the AEA's work quiet, the newspaper suggested. The union is a "political powerhouse, with vast sums of money to spend on campaigns, its own polling agency and a get-out-the-vote engine unrivaled in Alabama." But as "the backbone of the state Democratic Party, it also was a lightning rod for conservative voters," the Press-Register says.

Bentley prevailed against his Republican rival, and now faces Democrat Ron Sparks in the Nov. 2 general election. In a follow-up, the GOP candidate has acknowledged receiving AEA support, but says he was unaware that the union used "robocalls" on behalf of his campaign. Will any of this intrigue matter to Alabama voters? We'll find out in a couple weeks.

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