Newly elected House member Mark Tuggle hugs his dad, Larry Tuggle, at the Shoppes of Queen's Attic Tuesday night. | Natalie Nettles

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Tuggle takes it

Published 11:48pm Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cheers erupted from the Shoppes of Queen’s Attic last night as Republican Mark Tuggle defeated incumbent State Rep. Betty Carol Graham for the seat of House District 81.

Tuggle received 9,005 votes, compared with 6,989 for Graham, who has held the House District 81 seat the past four terms.

Tuggle waited until the final precincts reported numbers to acknowledge his win, but when he did address the crowd of friends and family, he thanked them for assisting in his road to victory.

“I had a lot of help. All I did was put my name on a ballot and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people stood behind me and pushed me forward and helped me get this done,” he said.

Tuggle, who has been a professional forester for about two decades, ran an intense campaign against Graham by selling himself as a “working man” with plans to “clean up the House.”

“When all of this started, I knew I could not raise the kind of money she could raise, but I knew I could outwork her,” he said.

Tuggle said the first issue he plans to tackle in office is economic development and bringing industry and creating jobs in the county.

He said he was grateful he “weathered the storm” of the campaign.

“I have been caller a liar, I have been called a smearer – whatever that is – and I have been called a typical politician,” Tuggle told his supporters. “I’m a 22-year professional forester. They’ve called me a lot of things and now they can call me representative.”

“This is a very special night for me and my family,” he added, acknowledging his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Dee. “Michelle said tonight I smiled tonight for the first time in two weeks.”

John Prophitt, chairman of the Tallapoosa County Republican Party, praised Tuggle’s victory, stating that it’s “unprecedented for a Republican to beat a Democrat that soundly” and also called the Republican takeover of the Alabama State House “historic.”

“I think the one word for tonight is historic, only because Republicans have made more gains in this county … since the Civil War,” Prophitt said. “We have been making steady gains. We saw a lot of gains in the primary … what it shows us is there is now a strong two-party system in the county.”