Political Rivals Serve at Same Church

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. - John McCain may have an uphill battle for the White House, but he's not alone. So do congressional Republicans in their respective races across the country as Democrats vie for big gains.

One of those heated races is in Alabama - the heart of the south - where southern charm and hospitality abound. They are points of pride across the region with a rare example on display in Southeast Alabama.

Political Rivals, Religious Brothers

Montgomery, Alabama, is possibly the only place in the country where a Democrat and his Republican rival serve as deacons at the same church and run against each other in one of this election's most contested congressional races.

Two-term Republican State Representative Jay Love describes himself as the Christian, conservative candidate for Congress.

Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who holds many of the same values, calls himself pro-family, pro-guns and pro-life.

"We're deacon brothers in the same church; our families worship in the same sanctuary; we know the same people," says Bright, who appears to be the Democrat's best shot at winning Alabama's 2nd District in 44 years. He adds a peculiar anecdote. "It was unique, too, that I voted for him to be a deacon, and I'm still proud I did."

Love, a successful businessman who won in a bitter primary runoff election agrees that it's an odd scenario.

"I would imagine it's a fairly unique race," says Love. "Typically, you don't have at a race this level in terms of a congressional level where two brothers from the same church serving on the same deacon body run against each other."

Common Call to Serve

Their pastor says both men are authentic in their faith and the church is equally proud of their call to public service.

"I think that's what's so extraordinary about Bobby and Jay being in our church," says Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church in downtown Montgomery.

"It says something pretty amazing about our church, that we have the breadth and the diversity to have different types of people here and we celebrate that under Christ.That two wonderful brothers in Christ could meet on the political battlefield and give it their best and yet come to the same house of worship, meet under the same cross, worship the same Lord and have the same goal - that is to serve people as a reflection of their love for Christ."

With all these two men share in common one might think the race between Jay Love and Bobby Bright would be cordial, perhaps even friendly. But, you don't have to be a political expert to sense the tone of the campaign is anything but civil. Because of the high stakes involved in this heated race, all bets appear to have come off the table.

Political Mudslinging

Judging from the local TV ads, it's hard to see the brotherly love.

"It's too negative," says John Tew, a 2nd District resident who was attending the annual Prattville Pumpkin Patch Arts and Crafts Show. "That's the sad thing about it. Both of them would probably serve our community well. It's just kind of bad that it got this ugly fighting this thing out." Many 2nd District residents agree.

Love, hoping to profit off his record of cutting taxes, points to where he and his opponent differ the most -- on the economy. He claims Bright would be a tax and spend liberal.

"The legacy in here in Montgomery has kind of been of increased taxes and the impact that has on increasing unemployment in the area," says Love. "I take a much more conservative philosophy toward government."

But Bright supporters, some of whom identify themselves as Bright Republicans, say the three term mayor is responsible for revitalizing the city and putting Montgomery back on the map.

"Where we differ is on party allegiance," says Bright. "I'm running as an Independent. Jay is running as a card-carrying party representative, and he's more inclined to put party first."

Bright's message seems to be connecting with voters.

According to Bradley Moody, a political science professor at Auburn University Montgomery, it's a trend spreading across the country.

"Part of it is the realization that party may not be as important as effectiveness of the individual whether he's a Democrat or Republican."

But Love says it's important to look at the company one keeps -- pointing out the Democratic party is behind campaign ads that have attacked him and his family. He says Bright should be held accountable.

Political observers also point out Republican supporters are doing the same thing for Love.

"I think the tone of the campaign would've been a lot more positive if both the DNC and RNC had stayed out of it," says Professor Moody.

Pastor Wolf says neither one bears full blame since much of what's said and done during the campaign is beyond their control.

"Let's face it. In this world, there is a lot of gamesmanship in politics," says Wolf.

"They are thoroughly Christian men, and one may have the exterior label of Democrat, the other Republican but their heart is the same."

Delightful Dilemma?

Both candidates say at the end of the day, they remain Christian brothers.

Meanwhile, their proud pastor says he won't endorse either candidate and hopes come November 4, the people of Alabama's 2nd District will see themselves as winners no matter who wins this race.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Washington Correspondent

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