We’re just about three weeks from this year’s primary elections, which means it’s time for debates to help us make up our … What? Wait, you’re saying there aren’t going to be any debates for either governor or U.S. Senate?
How is that possible? I know Gov. Kay Ivey runs from a debate like the high-steppin’, heart-blessin’ career politician she is, so maybe it’s not much of a surprise she would continue to duck having a public forum. But we’re also not going to get to see the three main GOP candidates for U.S. Senate stand on the same stage and explain how they intend to do the job either. Apparently, candidate Mike Durant — who we’re told is leading in the polls — can’t find the time for a debate. He’s too darn busy.
This is pretty pathetic folks.
You have to wonder what they’re so afraid of. Somewhere along the line, the politicians have turned the job interview process on its head. They want the job but are too busy to sit down and talk about why they deserve it with the employer (us). Instead, we’re left trying to pull meaning from silly commercials that barely scrape the surface.
While the Senate race is still considered a horse race, the governor’s race feels almost like a fait accompli. Most everyone “in the know” believes Ivey will cruise easily back into office for another four years of doing whatever it is she does. And that may well be true. But what’s also true is she has been completely “handled” during her five years as governor. What I mean by that is access to Ivey is tightly controlled, and she is almost never put in a position where she can be asked questions by nosy reporters. She’s more insulated than a top-quality refrigerator.
I know … if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. Not talking already won the last election and has her poised to win another. But Ivey has governed mostly by adhering to a policy of “if you act like it ain’t broke, you don’t have to fix it.” Alabama still flounders at the bottom of most lists after five years of Ivey in office, something you’d imagine we would have grown tired of by now.
To put it in the most relatable of Alabama terms, if she were a football coach Ivey would have been sent packing some time ago.
Maybe that seems harsh and you’re still feeling good about Ivey stepping in to mop up whatever disgusting mess the Luv Guv left behind. I’ll give her credit for not becoming embroiled in scandals during her first term, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear. Five years later I still find it hard to find a signature moment for Kay that has dramatically improved Alabama’s direction.
She did raise the gas tax considerably to help repair Alabama’s crumbling infrastructure. So if you like higher gas prices, that’s a win. But her plan to fund the much-needed I-10 bridge over the Mobile River was a debacle that would have left us paying massive tolls to an all-powerful private company for the rest of eternity. Fortunately, it failed.
Likewise, her plan for building more prisons doesn’t look like a great deal for Alabama, but it will make some individuals a lot of money. I’d also point out that in her five years, Ivey still hasn’t managed to get a lottery before the voters, and the only gaming bill that ever gets talked about is one that would hand over almost the entire industry to the Poarch Creek Indians. She’s shown no leadership there.
We ran a readers’ poll last week in my Sunday Brunch newsletter, asking who people would be voting for in the Republican gubernatorial primary, and not surprisingly, Kay was way out in front, with just over 40 percent of our 300-plus respondents saying they would vote for her. What surprised me is that candidate Lew Burdette came in second, getting a little more than 15 percent of the responses. Why is that significant? To me, it’s because Burdette is the only major candidate for governor who is talking about Alabama’s place in the world instead of making country bumpkin comedy, obscure social issues or Donald Trump and Joe Biden the centerpiece of his campaign.
He’s also the only candidate other than Ivey anyone has mentioned to me as having piqued their interest.
I realize Lagniappe subscribers may not be completely representative of the electorate as a whole, but it still fascinates me that Burdette talking about where we rank nationally as a state has gotten some traction. Will that traction be enough to get him into a runoff? I hope so, because I’d like to hear more about these issues and maybe even force Ivey to drop the dopey “Hee Haw” routine long enough to explain her plans.
When you compare Alabama to other states, we just don’t fare well. For instance, one recent study that used 33 different metrics to rank education in the U.S. placed Alabama dead last. Likewise, Alabama ranks 45th in median household income and 44th in infrastructure. Other recent studies place Alabama seventh-highest in obesity, eighth-highest in crime per capita and numero uno for worst health care. We also are ranked the fifth-poorest state in the union and fifth-highest in the number of welfare recipients per 100,000 citizens.
As I said, if we were a football team, they probably would have taken the coach out behind the barn and shot him.
I realize no governor can change all of this overnight, or even in one term, but Ivey isn’t even talking about these issues. It’s hard to believe these topics are on Ivey’s mind when her only communication with voters is blessing Joe Biden’s heart or telling us she’s not about to learn Spanish anytime soon. Yes, the commercials are amusing to some, vomit-inducing to others, and regardless of anything else, do a great job of distracting voters from focusing on actual problems.
If we fall for it, we’re just admitting we’re comfortable at the bottom.
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