By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Less than 72 hours after becoming a surprise, late entrant into the Alabama 2018 governor’s race, State Sen. Slade Blackwell has withdrawn his candidacy.
Numerous sources indicated Monday afternoon that Blackwell’s withdrawal was imminent, and by Monday evening Alabama Republican Party spokeswoman Katie Lansford confirmed the news.
What just happened?
Your guess is as good as mine to what this was all about.
Blackwell was the last-minute qualifier into an otherwise settled race for the GOP gubernatorial primary. His entry into the race had many scratching their heads as to what his intentions were given that others had already launched well-planned, serious campaigns.
Now, 72 hours later, Blackwell is no longer a candidate for governor and, because qualifying is over, he can no longer run for his current Senate seat as a Republican.
So, did he just think better of it? Was this all some ploy to get Gov. Kay Ivey’s attention?
A few sources tell me this is about Blackwell’s fight to keep the Childersburg work-release prison open so local governments in Blackwell’s district can retain access to cheap labor.
In any case, he has everybody’s attention now, but not in a positive way. Groups that have contributed to Blackwell’s campaigns were blindsided by both his entrance and exit from the race.
One prominent Alabama politico told me of the once rising-star senator, “Slade has gone from ‘who’s who’ to ‘who’s that?’ in the space of a weekend.
And, because qualifying is over, he can no longer run for his current Senate seat as a Republican.
It’s common for politicians contemplating retirement to wait until the last minute to withdraw their candidacy to give their preferred successor a leg up in the race. Retiring State Sen. Hank Sanders just did that for his daughter.
Blackwell appears to have been favoring campaign adviser Miranda Carter, who qualified for his Senate seat about the same time.
But qualifying for the governor’s race and then dropping out? Bizarre.
Blackwell’s candidacy had added an interesting component to the Alabama GOP gubernatorial primary. High approval ratings could help incumbent Kay Ivey avoid a primary runoff, but a more crowded and contested race would make it much harder for her to win the 50 percent plus one necessary to do so.
Blackwell’s exit is generally good news for Ivey. In one recent poll reported by YellowHammer, Ivey led a four-way field including former Chief Justice Roy Moore with 52 percent of the vote. Ivey advisers say the governor’s numbers are actually better than that.
Now the field appears to be settled: Ivey, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Mobile State Sen. Bill Hightower, Birmingham minister Scott Dawson and Michael McCallister.