Powerful Alabama Congressman Bachus survives tough primary

MOBILE, Alabama Wed Mar 14, 2012 2:37am EDT

House Financial Services Committee ranking member Spencer Bachus (R-AL) speaks during the Reuters Washington Summit September 23, 2010. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

House Financial Services Committee ranking member Spencer Bachus (R-AL) speaks during the Reuters Washington Summit September 23, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - Powerful Alabama Congressman Spencer Bachus overcame aggressive campaign ads and allegations of insider trading to beat his Republican challengers by a wide margin in Tuesday's primary contest.

Bachus, a 10-term incumbent who chairs the U.S. House committee overseeing financial regulation, won the more than 50 percent of the vote needed to proceed to the general election.

His total far exceeded the votes earned by his top opponent, state Senator Scott Beason, who gained notice as a chief architect of Alabama's crackdown on illegal immigration.

While most of the attention was focused on the Republican presidential primary fights in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday, the two states also voted for a host of state and local offices.

Bachus survived the unusually tough primary fight despite being the focus of an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation over insider trading allegations.

The representative has denied accusations that he timed personal financial decisions to capitalize on information collected while performing his congressional duties. Congress recently passed a law forbidding insider trading by its members.

Bachus spent more than $1.5 million combating attacks by the Texas-based, anti-incumbent Campaign for Primary Accountability Super PAC, which on Beason's behalf called for voters to recognize the state senator as the "true conservative."

"We overcame a lot of big money," Bachus told Reuters. "They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars distorting my record, but the voters of the 6th District didn't go for it."

Republican U.S. Congressmen Jo Bonner and Mo Brooks also survived primary challenges, with each winning more than half the votes in his respective district.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who once refused to remove the Ten Commandments from a state courthouse, was leading the three-way race for the Republican nomination for his former office late Tuesday. Moore was booted from the chief justice post in 2003 because of the controversy over the Ten Commandments decision.

In neighboring Mississippi, congressional incumbents coasted past primary opponents on Tuesday.

Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker walloped two little-known challengers and will face a Democrat named Albert Gore in the general election. Gore is not related to the former U.S. vice president by the same name.

Three Republican U.S. House members -- Alan Nunnelee, Gregg Harper and Steven Palazzo -- beat Tea Party candidates who accused the incumbents of not being conservative enough.

Longtime U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the lone Democrat in Mississippi's congressional delegation, also sailed past his opposition.

(Reporting by Kelli Dugan; Additional reporting by Robbie Ward; Writing By Colleen Jenkins)

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