By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama voters go to the polls Tuesday to make their choices for governor in party primaries.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is seeking to win the office outright after becoming governor last year when the state’s then-governor resigned in the messy fallout of an alleged affair with a staffer. However, she faces GOP primary challengers hoping, at a minimum, to force her into a July runoff. In the Democratic primary, a field of hopefuls seeks to build on the December victory of U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.
“I’m proud of all we’ve gotten accomplished in these 14 months. When I became governor, I told the people we would clean up government, restore the people’s trust and we would bring back our conservative values, and we have,” Ivey said during a campaign stop in Montgomery.
Ivey faces Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, evangelist Scott Dawson and state Sen. Bill Hightower of Mobile in the Republican primary.
“We can do things better in this state,” Battle has said in campaign stops and interviews.
Battle, the mayor of Huntsville since 2008, has said he is the only candidate with a proven track record in economic development and education.
The candidates made a sweep of last-minute stops and media interviews ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
“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.
Ivey’s challengers have criticized Ivey’s unwillingness to debate them during the primary.
Ivey, who had previously won statewide elections for lieutenant governor and treasurer, enjoys a name recognition and fundraising advantage heading into the primary vote.
“The big question is can the aggregate of challengers hold Kay under 50 (percent),” said David Mowery, a political consultant in Montgomery.
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.
Democrats in the race are mostly running on similar platforms of establishing a state lottery and Medicaid. But each has argued they are the better option to try to take back the governorship come November.
“It’s about the future of this state,” Maddox said Monday. “Do we want to provide the next generation with a better Alabama than the one we inherited or do we want leadership that remains silent to the problems of our times.”
Maddox picked up a number of valuable endorsements in his first bid for statewide office while Cobb has name recognition from her past statewide victories in judicial races.
Cobb, who became a judge at age 25, emphasized her three decades of experience on the judicial bench during the race.
“It’s time for Alabama to have a governor who cares more about the next generation than the next election,” Cobb said in a video message to supporters on Monday.
Turnout is predicted to be average in Tuesday’s primary. 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.
Alabama does not require party registration so registered voters can choose which primary they want to cast a ballot.
However, under the state’s cross-over voting ban, a person cannot vote in one primary and then switch to the other party’s runoff in July.
Polls open at 7 a.m.