Is it just me or does it seem like no one is really paying much attention to the primary election we have coming up next week? During the special election between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore, I felt like that was all anyone could talk about. Yard signs were everywhere and the chatter was endless. Now granted, there were some highly salacious allegations involved and the national media was basically camped out here for months, so there was definitely a heightened awareness for that race.
And sure, you can tune in to talk radio or go to such events as the Chamber’s “Pork and Politics” and get a heaping helping of political commentary about the June 5 election, but for the most part, when I have been out and about, I’ve largely heard crickets about this election. And that’s sad because we have some big decisions to make!
So, in an effort to kill the crickets and make some noise, here are a few random thoughts on the biggest race of all on June 5, the one for governor of our great state. (Disclosure: No crickets were actually harmed in the making of this column.)
Being the incumbent Republican, Gov. Kay Ivey is the odds-on favorite, and she certainly has a lot of big PAC money pouring in because of this.
I know people were so relieved when Robert “Luv Guv” Bentley was finally kicked out of office, and they associate her face with that relief. And God bless her, she hasn’t had an affair with a staffer or paid said paramour with a secret slush fund or tried to move anyone’s desk or had her purse flown via gubernatorial helicopter anywhere. Or had any other of the ridiculously embarrassing scandals enjoyed by our previous lovesick governor.
I get it. It’s been nice to have a relatively scandal-free administration in Montgomery for a minute, and she does come off as Alabama’s MeeMaw. And everyone loves their MeeMaw.
And to her credit, Gov. Ivey has indeed been pleasantly non-offensive. But is that all we really want out of a governor? The ability not to be a philanderer? We deserve more. If Gov. Ivey were running against the usual unqualified perennial lunatic candidates, I would be waving my Ivey flag too. But she isn’t. I would actually rank her as my fourth or fifth choice among the field of great candidates we have on both sides of the aisle. And to have so many good choices, well, that’s a rare occurrence in this state, y’all.
Ivey says she been too busy being a governor to debate her fellow Republican candidates, but come on, what confident, capable politician at any level have you ever known who couldn’t find the time to tell us why they are the greatest thing that could ever happen to the city/state/country they are hoping to represent?
Her handlers also won’t let media talk to or interview her. Huge red flag! This should tell you all you need to know. She and her campaign folks both know some of the other candidates would mop up the floor with her in a debate. Is it simply because she isn’t quick on her feet or because she can’t really take a deep dive into the issues? Or both? Whatever the answer, it isn’t really acceptable.
So let’s talk about those other candidates who would be better choices than Ivey.
First up, the Republicans …
Bill Hightower, the only candidate from South Alabama, without question, should be our next governor. He is very smart (received his MBA from Vanderbilt), very capable (worked at numerous Fortune 500 companies), and has great and very detailed ideas for turning this state around (reforming the tax code, enacting term limits, banning earmarks), all of which he can explain with great confidence in a way that is easy to understand. He is very polished and doesn’t sound like he has a mouth full of rocks when he speaks, like some of our other state and national politicos do. He would represent us very well on the national stage. And he would care about South Alabama, which very few of our governors have.
Will he be our next governor? Hard to say. Traditionally, candidates from coastal Alabama have a harder time getting elected to statewide office because of the domination of the other state media markets. But if you live in South Alabama and are going to vote in the Republican primary, then you should vote for our hometown guy, Bill Hightower, to at least give him a shot at the runoff with Ivey. Even if he weren’t from South Alabama, I would say he is the best Republican candidate. The fact that he is from here is just a bonus.
Tommy Battle, the mayor of Huntsville, would also be a very solid choice. He has been a popular mayor and Huntsville is growing like crazy. In fact, they have leaped over us in population size. (Boo!) And he has several impressive economic development feathers in his mayoral cap by having Remington, Polaris and the Toyota/Mazda plants open up shop in Huntsville during his tenure.
On the Democratic side …
It’s very hard for a Democrat to win statewide office in Alabama, but Sen. Doug Jones managed to do it and state Dem operatives are hoping to see some of the same energy and turnout from that race channeled into this one. But it is likely? Probably not. Whoever ends up on the Democratic ticket won’t be running against Roy Moore. But is it possible? Sure. And the top two candidates are great choices.
Walt Maddox is a very popular Tuscaloosa mayor who is credited with leading the city through crisis when a devastating tornado hit in 2011. He is very likable and energetic, with an adorable young family. He and his family have a Camelot feel — so we will call them Alabamalot. But in addition to this, he is very qualified. Before he was mayor, he was a Tuscaloosa city councilperson and worked with the Alabama Education Association. Word on the street is he was actually urged to run as a Republican, so presumably he would govern moderately and be a good leader for every citizen of this state, no matter what side of the aisle they like to dance on. Which is appealing to Democrats and independents alike.
Sue Bell Cobb, Alabama’s first female chief justice, is equally likable and personable. When you sit down and talk with her, it feels as if you are chatting with one of your girlfriends. As an attorney, she has worked as a district judge, on the court of criminal appeals and, of course, as chief justice. She also has a very well documented history of being active in child advocacy in Alabama, founding the Children First Foundation.
Her campaign has not been without mistakes, as she had a sex offender working as a field director, which her campaign has explained as both an oversight and a great story of redemption, so not really sure what’s going on there — but either way, she’s not the sex offender, so that shouldn’t disqualify her. She has many detailed policies on her website and is comfortable explaining them, so even despite this misstep, she would be a very capable governor as well.
In closing, on Tuesday, I would say on the Democratic side, both choices are solid, though I feel like Maddox has the wind at his back at this point. For Republicans, Kay Ivey has a 99 percent chance of making the runoff, so if you are voting on the Republican ticket, vote for one of the other candidates (I suggest Hightower or Battle) so perhaps if Ivey does face a runoff (it’s possible she could win it outright), maybe just maybe if she is challenged she will be forced to debate her competitor, which would give us a much better idea as to who is truly qualified to run this state. I hope so, as we deserve the chance to kick the tires on these candidates a little bit longer.