MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will not attend upcoming debates in the race for governor, drawing criticism from her rivals as she seeks to be elected to the office for the first time.
A spokeswoman for Ivey’s campaign said she will not attend two separate GOP primary debates this month being hosted by WVTM 13 and al.com. Campaign spokeswoman Debbee Hancock wrote in a Wednesday email that Ivey has official engagements those days. Her campaign did not respond to a question asking if Ivey would attend any debate.
Ivey’s challengers criticized what they say is her unwillingness to meet them on a debate stage.
“Kay Ivey has never been elected governor. I think she owes it to the people to answer their questions and make herself available, even if it means working extra hours in a day,” GOP challenger Scott Dawson said.
Ivey became governor last year when then-Gov. Robert Bentley resigned amid a push in the Alabama Legislature to impeach him after an alleged affair with a staffer.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who is also challenging Ivey in the GOP primary, said in a Tuesday statement that it is important to share his plans for the state in a debate and invited Ivey to do the same.
“I’ve extended an invitation to her to join us in sharing our vision with the people of the state of Alabama. I’ve always believed people make time for things that are important to them. The people of Alabama are important to me, and sharing my plan for this state with them is important to me,” Battle said.
Ivey campaign manager Mike Lukach responded in a statement, “Is Tommy Battle applying to be Governor of Alabama, or campaign scheduler for Kay Ivey?”
Lukach said Ivey has been “crisscrossing the state to share the success story of Alabama working again.”
Incumbent governors perceived as front runners have sometimes avoided debates with challengers. In 2014, when Bentley refused to debate his Democratic challenger, Parker Griffith responded by erecting a giant inflatable duck in downtown Montgomery to jab Bentley for “ducking” a debate with him. Bentley easily won the election.