March 24, 2018

Gov. Ivey’s challengers unite: Let’s have debates


March 24, 2018


The three Republican challengers to Gov. Kay Ivey in the GOP gubernatorial primary are united:

Let’s debate.

Both state Sen. Bill Hightower and evangelist Scott Dawson told on Thursday they were eager to participate in a debate while Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle issued two press releases this week pushing Ivey to join the other candidates on the debate stage.

“I’m ready to debate anytime, anywhere,” said Hightower, R-Semmes. “I’ve got some great ideas I want to tell Alabama about. So everybody’s talking about it but I’m ready to do it.”

Dawson echoed those sentiments almost verbatim.

“Everyone says they want a debate,” he said. “So if you say you’re going to debate, then the next step is actually debating.”

So far, though, no debates have been announced.

There is still time for a single debate or even a series of debates to be arranged, of course, since the June 5 primary is more than two months away. For instance, a televised debate between GOP U.S. Senate candidates Luther Strange and Roy Moore came together quickly last fall and took place less than a week before voters went to the polls in September.

But if Ivey is the favorite as the sitting governor – she took office April 10, 2017 after Robert Bentley was forced to resign – and with an outsized campaign war chest compared to others in the race, her opponents are eager to bolster their hopes discussing issues on the same stage with the governor.

 Battle on Thursday included a list of five would-be debates and candidate forums he has committed to attend. His press release also included a newspaper clipping from 1982 in which Ivey, who was challenging incumbent Jan Cook, was seeking election as state auditor. According to that clipping from The Montgomery Advertiser, Ivey sent a telegram to Cook, inviting her to appear with her throughout the state to discuss qualifications for office.

Cook declined the invite.

In that 1982 race, Ivey held a press conference on the capitol steps that included an empty chair with Cook’s name on it.

“Tommy Battle agrees with Gov. Ivey, ‘All residents of Alabama deserve to hear from each candidate, personally, about their qualifications and their vision for our great state, especially since neither of us have yet to be elected Governor,’ said Battle,” according to the press release.

Battle, Dawson and Hightower all argued that gubernatorial debates would be the good of the state – Battle and Dawson both used the word “deserves” when speaking of a debate for voters while Hightower said “needs.”

Ivey’s campaign told The Associated Press last month that she would be “happy to discuss her record” in a debate setting. Earlier this week, Ivey’s campaign – in a statement to in the wake of Battle’s first press release – did not directly address the issue of a debate.

“Gov. Ivey has already attended events with her fellow candidates, and she will continue to do so,” campaign manager Mike Lukach said. “She has been crisscrossing the state sharing her message. Thanks to Kay’s conservative leadership, Alabama is working again.” is planning debates for both Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates and has extended invitations to all candidates to participate. The dates for those debates have not yet been announced.

“I’m eager to do it,” Hightower said. “I will do it on my own if nobody else does it. I think I’ve got the best ideas. But also, we’ve got to reach Alabama and Alabama needs to know what our vision is because Alabama needs a leader. I’ve been in Montgomery for only a few years (he was elected to the state Senate in 2013) but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see we haven’t had leadership.”

Since Ivey was not elected governor, Dawson said it makes debates all the more important.

“We do not have an elected governor at this stage,” he said. “We have a selected governor because our previous governor was removed. So I think all of Alabama deserves to hear all four candidates on the platform to share their ideas and their vision instead of being dictated by other people.”

But after all the lobbying and pushing for debates, for now the question remains: Will it actually take place?

“I don’t know if the debates are going to happen or not,” said Dawson, who said he is meeting with voters on a daily basis. “I can’t put all my eggs in that basket.”

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