By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s Republican primary challengers took aim Thursday night at her decision to skip a televised debate.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower and evangelist Scott Dawson criticized Ivey’s decision to not attend the Thursday debate hosted by WVTM-13 in Birmingham. Ivey was also in Birmingham Thursday night but was throwing out the first pitch at the Birmingham Barons’ minor league baseball game.
Dawson said while Ivey is the incumbent, she was never elected or vetted for that post. Ivey, who was lieutenant governor, became governor automatically a year ago when then-Gov. Robert Bentley resigned in the midst of a sex-tinged scandal.
“Our current governor was not elected to this position. She was appointed to this position and we deserve to know what she is going to do in the future,” Dawson said. “I have to start asking myself…Are we hiding something?” Dawson said.
Asked why he was a better choice than Ivey to be the GOP nominee for governor, Hightower began with, “Well, I’m here. I’m answering your questions. That’s one.” Battle said it was “a shame” that someone would attend a baseball game instead of discussing the issues of the state.
Ivey will also not attend a debate next week hosted by al.com.
When asked about her debate absences, Ivey told The Decatur Daily Thursday morning that she was focused on governing.
“This race is about our individual records and mine is an open book,” Ivey told the newspaper.
The three candidates, who had a chance to put questions to each other, used the opportunity to take aim at the absent governor instead.
Hightower said Ivey was “taking credit for a lot of things going on in Huntsville” such as low unemployment and the decision for Toyota and Mazda to build an auto plant in that city that will eventually employ 4,000 people. “I want to know how that makes you feel,” Hightower asked Battle.
Battle responded chuckling that certain campaign ads make it look like “no one else was there” but said the effort was under way long before Ivey was governor.
“It was a huge team effort. It was a local team effort We got the site ready for 10 years. I visited Japan for the past four years.” Battle said.
Dawson asked Hightower if Ivey was “engaged” in dealings with the Alabama Legislature. Hightower, in what appeared to be a jab at Ivey’s age, replied that the state needed someone with “the vision, the vigor and the health to carry the state forward.” Ivey is 73.
The three GOP candidates agreed on a number of other issues. All three opposed raising the state minimum wage. They also expressed support for Ivey’s proposal to put a work requirement on the state’s few able-bodied Medicaid recipients.
Hightower and Dawson expressed opposition to a state lottery. Battle said a lottery could be a “financial tool” to help fund education programs but was not a “cure-all.”
The primary election is June 5.