Where was Ivey?
That was the question of the night during a Thursday debate with three of the four Republican candidates for governor.
Evangelist Scott Dawson, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and state Sen. Bill Hightower participated in a debate broadcast live on WVTM. Gov. Kay Ivey declined the invitation, citing prior commitments. Instead she was in Birmingham a few miles away from the debate, throwing out the first pitch at the opening night for the Birmingham Barons at Regions Field.
Ivey’s absence at the debate — and on the campaign trail— seemed to bond the three men against a common foe. When given the opportunity to ask the other candidate a question, each man questioned the other on Ivey’s absence.
“I take it personal,” Dawson said. “I make the time to show up.” Dawson said he was in Kansas City for a meeting earlier Thursday and flew back into town to attend the debate.
Battle said he has stomped the campaign trail along with Dawson and Hightower, but Ivey has largely been absent.
“If you can’t come out to talk about the issues then you are not a public servant,” he said.
Hightower said he did not see Ivey in the Statehouse during this past legislative session and he was surprised that she was seeking election.
The three candidates also seemed to be in agreement on several of the issues discussed during the hour-long debate. They all favor heavy regulation on medical marijuana, they support more funding for teacher raises and for state troopers, and all three oppose raising the state’s minimum wage, which is now $7.50 an hour.
The men argued the minimum wage is a base rate and that businesses are free to offer workers more. Forcing a higher minimum wage could mean fewer jobs, one candidate offered.
“(Raising the minimum wage) hurts the poor,” Hightower said. “It cuts them out of jobs and there is no research that says it is good for poor people.”
There was some difference of opinion on a state-sponsored lottery. While Dawson and Hightower oppose a state lottery, Battle said he would support a public vote and that proceeds from a lottery could be a “financial tool” that would support college funding.
And on gay marriage. Dawson and Hightower both said Alabama needs to “get out of the marriage business.” They support a bill that would call for the state to stop issuing marriage licenses or requiring a judge to marry couples, in order to avoid the legal clashes involving some counties that refused to marry same sex couples. Battle favored following the law as far as same sex marriages to avoid wasting money on lawsuits.
When asked why they wanted to be governor, each man offered a different take.
Hightower said he wants to use his background in business to move the state forward and he wants to change people’s perceptions of Alabama. “I have a vision for the state,” he said.
Battle, who touted his success with economic growth and development while leading the city of Huntsville, said he wanted to do the same for the entire state. He said he also wanted to provide “ethical leadership.”
Dawson said he wants to “bring Alabama together for the future.” Dawson, who has not served political office, said he is offering an alternative to the longtime politicians who have been elected to lead the state.