Cast your memory way back to 2010. If you’re having trouble, break out your trusty smartypants phone and Google “Alabama governor Robert Bentley and Ron Sparks.”
Up should pop many stories about the man who would go on to become the infamous Luv Guv defeating the ethically hobbled Ron Sparks in the general election. It’s like a bad dream coming back to you now, right?
You may even ask yourself, “How did THAT happen? How were those two bottom-feeders the nominees?” Scroll down some and you’ll start to see stories about Bentley and Sparks winning the Republican and Democratic primaries, defeating challengers who, in the light of day, or really in a pitch-black closet, appear to be better in almost every way than the eventual nominees.
On the Republican side, Bentley sneaked past now-U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who may not be the far right’s idea of a rock-ribbed conservative, but who also clearly is bright and able to conduct himself with decency as this area’s representative in Congress. On the flip side, the sleazy Sparks beat very moderate Democrat (now Republican) Artur Davis, a man who also has the kind of intellect and independence we should have wanted in a governor, but who didn’t excite the far left.
In other words, in 2010 Alabama voters chose to go dumpster diving instead of bellying up to the table with the rest of the states that have selected dynamic, forward-leaning leaders.
I fear we find ourselves in much the same place eight years later.
Particularly troubling is the Republican side of the slate this go-around. If the few polls released are to be believed, Gov. Kay Ivey has a good shot of staying in the governor’s mansion, and I find myself wondering why.
I’ll say up front there is nothing clearly objectionable or obnoxious about Ivey as governor, but that shouldn’t be the criteria for selecting the person to lead a state that clearly needs fresh ideas and direction. Ivey’s nearly 40 years on Goat Hill offer little evidence she’s sitting at home with a notebook full of bright ideas.
Ivey faces two opponents — Sen. Bill Hightower and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle — who both more closely fit the mold of dynamic leadership called for by Alabama’s current condition, and have government experience. The other challenger, Scott Dawson, is an evangelist, and I’ll just leave it at that.
While this is not an endorsement of either Hightower or Battle, it is hard to believe they are not gaining more traction against Ivey, who at this point is reminiscent of the Colonel Sanders character in the KFC commercials. She seems mostly like a brand hustled out to make people think about the good ol’ days, while pushing the kind of diet we should have learned to avoid long ago. She’s going to hand you a big, greasy, warm piece of fried chicken and tell you to go relax on the sofa until it’s time for your heart attack.
Ivey refuses to debate, so we can’t see whether she is mentally nimble or can promote any plans she might have. Instead, she sits back and essentially tells us “Everything is really great in Alabama right now. Why change?” She hides behind a series of vapid commercials reminiscent of the cringe-worthy Tim James ads from 2010 that proclaimed “This is Alabama, we speak English!” while presenting his sorely needed plans for revamping the state driver’s license test.
Ivey’s latest commercial shows a couple of guys at a shooting range talking about how sick they are of “D.C. politicians” and why they think Ivey is “tough as nails,” “cleaned up that Bentley mess” and “protected our monuments.” They also laud her for “record jobs” creation and mention that President Trump called her a “great governor.” All this before three gunshots ring out to reveal Ivey standing there with a smoking pistol and a wry smile.
So let’s just dissect this a bit. First, what exactly did Ivey do to “clean up the Bentley mess?” Do we know who was contributing to the secret fund paying Rebekah Mason’s salary? No. Did Ivey lead the charge to have Big Luther investigated for selling out his office? Nope. Did Ivey say anything about the Bentley mess when she was Lt. Governor? Not a word. So far it seems all Ivey has done to “clean up the Bentley mess” is move into the governor’s mansion.
In fact, it’s probably worth asking Ivey what she did during any of the scandals that have rocked Montgomery over the past decade. I don’t remember her saying much at all about House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s ethical issues, or any others for that matter. Ivey is more likely to go down in history as the next Annie Oakley than as the scourge of Goat Hill corruption. She also signed a new ethics law that actually reduces the amount of people and things covered — the very loophole used to keep Gov. Bentley from being prosecuted.
Signing a monuments protection bill drafted by the Legislature and taking credit for Alabama’s part in the nationally improving economy is hardly worth mentioning either, as neither required her work. And a pat on the back from Trump should be expected of any Republican governor running for re-election.
Ivey is already on the record as being against constitutional reform, tax reform and a statewide lottery to help improve our woeful educational system. Her one answer to everything seems to be “more jobs will mean more taxes.” As rudimentarily correct as that is, it’s not a plan.
In Southwest Alabama we should wonder why Ivey, as Lt. Gov., stood by and watched us get screwed out of a hundred million dollars in BP money without saying a word. It would be nice to hear her tell us why it was OK for the counties actually damaged by the oil spill to not even get half of the money.
Has anyone heard her say anything about our sorely needed Interstate 10 bridge? What’s her plan there?
Republicans in Alabama should take a hard look at Ivey and think about what just happened in the U.S. Senate race. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is certainly a quality candidate in the Democratic primaries, and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb was looking strong until her campaign sent a sex offender door-to-door soliciting votes last week. Oops.
The general election won’t be a cakewalk, especially if Ivey is forced from behind the curtain. As the primaries approach, this is the moment when there is an opportunity to avoid the kind of regret experienced eight years ago.