2018 Election

Ivey Says Lottery Approval Is up to Legislature, Voters

Gov. Kay Ivey spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Birmingham on Oct. 23, 2018. (Source: Robert Carter)

Gov. Kay Ivey isn’t necessarily a big fan of a new state lottery, but she would not get in the way if the Legislature and Alabama voters approved an amendment to the state constitution to legalize the games.

That’s the position the Republican, who’s running for election to a full term after succeeding former Gov. Robert Bentley after his resignation, expressed Tuesday to reporters before a speech to the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Birmingham. On the same day, many Alabamians were headed for Tennessee, Florida and Georgia to purchase tickets for a MegaMillions national lottery with a jackpot of more than $1.6 million, plus a Powerball jackpot on Wednesday of at least $620 million.

“The lottery has to be first addressed by the Legislature,” Ivey said. “If they were to (vote on) a simple lottery …  I suspect it would pass. But the chances of the Legislature being able to pass just a simple lottery is yet to be seen.”

If the Legislature did approve a lottery bill, it would then go to the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. “I certainly support the people having the right to vote on an issue,” Ivey said. “But right now, our budgets are well-funded and doing good and the economy’s doing good in Alabama, so a lottery may not be something we need right this minute, but we’ll see what the people want to do.”

Alabama is one of just six states without a lottery, and Ivey’s Democratic opponent, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, has pushed for one with proceeds to fund college scholarships, pre-K education and assistance for troubled schools.

Ivey also responded to charges by Maddox that she used a private email server for messages between herself and her staff while serving as lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2014. The governor said her office had released the emails to the public.

“My office released those emails that Walt has been waving around,” Ivey said, “and they’re clearly available to the public, the press and even to my opponent because my office goes to great lengths to make sure we are open and transparent.”

Ivey added that the emails were to her staff to keep her from booking conflicting appointments, and that she wasn’t surprised Maddox made the messages an issue. “When someone is as desperate as my opponent is, you’re not surprised about anything he’ll say or do,” she said.

So far, the Maddox attacks don’t seem to be having much of an effect on Alabama voters, though it’s hard to tell for sure because independent polling on the governor’s race is almost non-existent. The Real Clear Politics online hub for polling information doesn’t even list the Alabama race, and a spokeswoman for the Ivey campaign was only aware of two polls.

One poll, conducted by NBC and online pollster SurveyMonkey, asked questions of more than 1,200 registered voters in a poll that ended Sept. 24. Ivey was supported by 51 percent of those surveyed, while 26 percent favored Maddox and 22 percent were undecided. GOP candidates held similar leads in down-ballot races. The other poll was sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) and its political action committee, FarmPAC, was completed at about the same time and showed that Ivey held a 56-36 lead over Maddox. The pollster surveyed 316 likely voters and claimed a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percent. FarmPAC has endorsed the entire GOP state ticket.

Ivey currently has no additional campaign events scheduled, though a spokesperson told BirminghamWatch that her staff was “firming up plans” for this weekend.