There is a high likelihood Gov. Kay Ivey will seek another term in the governor’s mansion in 2022.
Her approval numbers remain solid despite a pandemic that has made nearly every elected official somewhat vulnerable. In addition to the pandemic, she has weathered several storms, including a blackface pseudo-scandal, gas tax hike and the toll bridge fiasco. She has been at odds with several lawmakers in the Alabama Legislature.
If she can survive all that and continue to be among the most popular governors in the country, why wouldn’t she run again?
An Ivey 2024 announcement would likely end Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth’s 2022 prospects beyond seeking reelection to his current office. Ainsworth announced last week he would not seek the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by Sen. Richard Shelby in 2022.
Instead, he would hold off until 2026 to not lose his place in line and face the possibility of an expensive contest against a well-financed incumbent.
However, someone will likely wage a long-shot challenge against Ivey.
Why? In Alabama, sometimes you need to run a few losing campaigns to better position yourself for a future statewide bid. From top to bottom, the state is very tribal — there are five media markets, six if you include Columbus, Ga.
There are, for now, seven congressional districts. The spread between Jackson County and Mobile County is almost night and day.
Except for the cursive “A” adorning homes that signifies allegiance to The University of Alabama, cultures vary from region to region.
A statewide losing run in Alabama could be deemed a so-called “get-acquainted campaign” that helps build name identification beyond a candidate’s home turf.
With nothing to lose, some might see a bid for governor against Ivey as an opportunity for the get-acquainted campaign.
Here are five names to watch:
- Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon: Kennon was an outspoken critic of last year’s lockdown, which resulted in the closure of Alabama’s beaches.
His city is centered around a tourism-based economy. That was, in part, what allowed U.S. Rep. Barry Moore to pull one of the biggest political upsets in Alabama history by defeating a well-funded Jeff Coleman for the GOP nomination last year.
Kennon also has been known to be a proponent of former President Donald Trump, which doesn’t hurt.
- Alabama Policy Institute chief policy officer Phil Williams: Williams, a former state senator, has been willing to publicly criticize Ivey over various issues, including her handling of the pandemic, which he said has created an imbalance among the branches of state government.
The feud escalated when Williams, under the banner of the Alabama Policy Institute, took exception to Ivey scoffing at the legislature reigning in executive power during an interview she did with Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal.”
“I know they’ve been introduced, and the Legislature always likes to have their time and their say, and that’s fine — but in an emergency, you don’t need a herd of turtles gathering to make an emergency decision,” Ivey said.
Williams, who hails from Etowah County, responded: “For the governor to so cavalierly dismiss the legislative branch of government in that way is a step too far.”
3) Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle: Battle ran for governor in 2018, but fell shy of a runoff with Ivey in the GOP primary.
Battle also showed he was willing to mix it up with Ivey, who was filling in for the remainder of former Gov. Robert Bentley’s term.
Even since the 2018 election cycle, Battle has had many successes for his region on which to run and could force Ivey into a runoff situation with strong North Alabama support.
4) Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson: On paper, Hudson is the type of candidate the Alabama Republican Party should be looking to elevate.
Winning a seat on the Mobile County Commission is more challenging than winning a seat in the Alabama Legislature.
Her resume includes nine years on the Mobile City Council and 10 years on the Mobile County Commission, making Hudson qualified for higher office.
The only thing lacking is exposure beyond the boundaries of the Mobile-Pensacola television market.
5) Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller: This is probably not a name many around the state would recognize. Still, long before big government internet initiatives (re: rural broadband) were en vogue, Fuller was a pioneer in this arena.
Fuller was the first to bring true “gig” speed internet to Alabama through a municipal utility. He faced severe headwinds from the political establishment at the behest of the telecom giants.
However, his effort by statute could not expand beyond the Opelika city limits, making it unsustainable in the long run, and Opelika sold the assets.
Opelika has existed in the shadows of Auburn and Auburn University. However, a short proximity from Atlanta and its international airport, Fuller has capitalized and improved the city’s residents’ quality of life. He would pose an interesting challenge to Ivey.
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