By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gubernatorial hopefuls crisscrossed the state Monday in the final full day of campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s high-stakes primary.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, using a plane borrowed from a supporter, held a series of last-minute rallies in multiple cities as she aims to clench the Republican nomination without a runoff, while her challengers pushed that Alabama needs a change in leadership and continued to condemn her refusal to meet them on the debate stage.
“The polls look great but they are just the polls. Tomorrow all that matters is who show ups at the polls,” Ivey said during a campaign stop in Montgomery.
Ivey, who had been the state’s lieutenant governor, is seeking to win the office outright after taking it by default in 2017 when then-Gov. Robert Bentley resigned in the messy fallout of an alleged affair with a staffer that prompted an ethics investigation and an impeachment push against him.
Ivey faces Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, evangelist Scott Dawson and state Sen. Bill Hightower in the Republican primary. Battle in morning interviews on talk radio argued that Alabama needs new leadership, and that he has a proven record of success in Huntsville.
A July runoff will be required between the top two finishers unless Ivey captures more 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday.
“The big question is can the aggregate of challengers hold Kay under 50 (percent),” said David Mowery, a political consultant in Montgomery.
Dawson was joined by syndicated radio host Rick Burgess during a sweep of east Alabama stops. Burgess criticized Ivey’s unwillingness to debate her challengers, saying voters “haven’t heard from her” beyond sound bites.
“The time is now for us to get rid of career politicians. We need one of us in Montgomery,” Dawson said during a campaign stop in Piedmont.
In the Democratic primary, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, and former state legislator James Fields top a large field.
It has been 20 years since Alabama elected a Democrat to the governor’s office. Energized by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’ victory in December, the party is seeking a revival and has more candidates running this year.
Cobb, one of the last Democrats to win statewide election in Alabama, is well-known from her past statewide wins. Maddox, however, has collected valuable endorsements, including one from the Alabama Democratic Conference, the state’s largest African-American political organization.
Turnout is predicted to be average. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he is predicting 25 and 30 percent of the state’s 3 million registered voters will vote on Tuesday.
Polls open at 7 a.m.