Playing it safe with a low-key campaign, Gov. Kay Ivey rolled over Republican Party opponents to cruise to victory in the Republican Party primary gubernatorial election today. She will face Democratic Party primary winner Walt Maddox in the November general election. Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa, also won without a runoff.
With 63 of 67 precincts reporting, Ivey had 57.10 of the vote, with her strongest challenger, Tommy Battle, at 24.79 percent. Maddox had 52.54 percent of the vote to Sue Bell Cobb’s 29.90 percent.
Ivey, former lieutenant governor, was elevated to governor following the 2017 resignation of Gov. Robert Bentley, whose leadership was plagued with scandals. Her closest competition came from Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. Evangelist Scott Dawson of Birmingham and Mobile State Sen. Bill Hightower were left far behind.
Ivey, 73, said she was a steadying influence on state government following the tumultuous years of Bentley leadership. She took advantage of her incumbency to avoid most open debates, forged a significant lead in campaign contributions, and emphasized gun rights, education and job growth. She also banned lobbyists from appointment to the executive branch of government.
In her victory speech, Ivey touted economic achievements made in the state in the past year and said, “But all these success, y’all, I say are just a good start ‘cause I’m not done yet.”
Ivey said she wanted to win a full term to the governor’s office to improve the state’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges and broadband internet.
Ivey said she needed the help of her friends to win in November because, “The liberals want this job bad. They want it but they not gonna get it.”
Maddox Takes Democratic Nomination
Maddox, in his first statewide political campaign, showed he could build an effective organization and overcome the name recognition of his main opponent, former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb of Montgomery. Cobb’s campaign was dogged by her hire of a registered sex offender as a field representative, by her resignation as chief justice, and by her endorsement of former US Sen. Jeff Sessions for US attorney general.
Maddox, 45, took full advantage of his leadership in rebuilding Tuscaloosa following the devasting tornadoes of 2011. He prioritized workforce education and training, called for a statewide lottery to help finance public education, and said he would expand Alabama’s Medicaid program. Prior to his first election as mayor in 2005, Maddox was director of personnel for Tuscaloosa City Schools.
In his acceptance speech, Maddox said he had spent the past months traveling to every corner of the state and listening to what people had to say.
“They want a leader they can have a cup of coffee with and one that will represent Alabama with pride … (and put) people over party, ideals over ideology and results over rhetoric.”
His vow to fight for passage of a lottery was met with loud cheers from the crowd. He also stressed fighting the opioid crisis, protecting the schools, fighting environmental injustices, expanding Medicaid and reforming the prison system.
UAB political science expert Larry Powell said today that Ivey had a commanding lead going into the primary election and he believed she probably would “get a pass” into the general election. He saw Maddox and Cobb as having a closer race. Maddox, he said, had a better organization, and Cobb ran an effective media campaign.
During the campaign Battle, 62, raised his profile statewide as he campaigned on robust growth in population and jobs in Huntsville, where he’s been mayor since 2008. Before that, he was a small business owner, from restaurants to real estate, and a former member of the city council. Job growth, economic development and schools were his priorities. He also favored a state lottery.
Dawson, 50, of Birmingham, made an all-out effort to appeal to his evangelical base for votes. He ultimately failed in an attempt to tie the governor to funding for an LGBT education organization. He also proposed drug-testing high school students who want to participate in extra-curricular activities.
Dawson conceded the race shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday night as he spoke to a crowd at The Barn at Shady Lane, near the Robert Trent Jones golf course at Oxmoor Valley.
The leader of the Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association said he knew from the day he entered the campaign for governor it would be a journey of faith.
“We gave it our best shot, and tonight, we’ll place our head upon the pillow and say we left nothing off the field,” Dawson told his supporters. “We gave it everything we had.”
Dawson encouraged supporters in the crowd to run for public office themselves. “I want to challenge every one of you. I want us to have godly men and women start serving on boards of education. I want them to be serving on county commissions. I want them to be serving as mayors, and yes, I want them to be leading our state,” said Dawson, who threw his support behind Ivey in the general election.
Hightower, 59, has represented state Senate District 35 since 2013. In the Legislature, he was chairman of the Constitution, Ethics and Elections Committee and vice chair of the Banking and Insurance Committee. A small business owner, Hightower wanted to institute term limits, ban legislative earmarks, improve distance learning and high school readiness, and improve state roads and bridges.
Michael McAllister appeared on the GOP primary ballot but died in April at his home in Troy. He was 69 and had campaigned very little.
James C. Fields Jr., 63, of Hanceville, ran third in the Democratic primary for governor. A former state representative, Fields also lost in his previous statewide run for lieutenant governor. The United Methodist Church pastor formerly was assistant director of the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations
Three other Democratic candidates failed to draw enough votes to throw the election into a run-off.
Christopher A. Countryman, 39, of Dothan, lost in his first political outing. He ran on a platform that included expanding hate crime laws, strengthening state ethics laws and providing incentives to produce better educators and schools. He also endorsed the development of a comprehensive state water plan.
Doug “New Blue” Smith, 78, of Montgomery, had government experience going back to the days of Govs. Lurleen Wallace and Albert Brewer. He has been a National Guard commander and a communications executive. He wanted to overhaul the state Department of Commerce, merge the departments of mental health and public health, and implement zero-based budgeting for the state.
Anthony White, 36, a newcomer to politics, owns a photography business in Dothan. He ran on a platform of jobs creation, expansion of Medicaid, and a state lottery to benefit education.
Jon Anderson of Starnes Publishing contributed to this report.