The Republican candidates for Alabama Senate District 13 knew it would be a close race, they just didn't know it would go down to the wire Tuesday night.

But when it did, legislative veteran Gerald Dial emerged with the winning numbers, overcoming a challenge from Tim Sprayberry by just 416 votes out of more than 14,000 cast.

Prior to the announcement of results, Dial said he was prepared for a tight race, but was still surprised by how close the numbers were.

"I knew it was going to be close, but I didn't think it would be this close," Dial said.

Dial has represented residents in rural east Alabama off and on since the 1980s, first as a member of the House, and then for six terms in the Senate. In 2006, Dial, then a Democrat, lost the District 13 seat, which covers parts of Cleburne, Clay, Randolph, Cherokee, Chambers and Lee counties. He made a switch to the Republican party in 2009 and won the seat back in 2010. Dial said his experience and seniority helped him stand up against politicians from more urban districts in making sure the voice of rural Alabama is heard in Montgomery.

Dial, 76, told The Star last year that 2014 would be his last election.

Dial’s party switch made him a target of his opponent, Sprayberry, who started campaigning against the incumbent last summer, telling The Star that Dial was not a true Republican and was a “Carter Democrat” and “Obama Democrat.” Sprayberry, a private investigator from Heflin and chairman of the Cleburne County Republican Party, said if elected he’d work on protecting gun owners’ rights and limiting involvement from the federal government.

Senate District 13 was one of five in the state targeted last year by the now-defunct Alabama Democratic Majority, chaired by Mark Kennedy. Kennedy told The Star last year that Dial was one of the sitting Republicans he believed could lose a spot to a Democrat in 2014.

Attempts late Tuesday to reach Democratic candidate Darrell Turner were unsuccessful.

Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.