While a political firestorm consumed Alabama’s gubernatorial race on Tuesday, Tommy Battle is not getting involved.
Battle held a brief press conference on Wednesday to discuss Tuesday’s happenings, which included a Democratic lawmaker insinuating that sitting Gov. Kay Ivey is a lesbian and a GOP candidate slamming Ivey for grant money going to an LGBT organization.
The gubernatorial hopeful was brief in his comments but sent a clear message that he would not jump into the chaos, and he urged Alabama to talk about the issues rather than what he calls a “deeply upsetting” moment in the race.
“We’re better than this,” Battle said in a statement after the conference. “I feel like we’ve lost focus of what’s important for Alabamians and what challenges we must take on to make this state better.”
His fellow gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson kicked off the controversy on Tuesday by saying that Ivey’s administration had continued to disperse state grants to an LGBT group in Huntsville.
The group, called Free2Be, received over $168,000 in 2017 through federal funds that were administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
Dawson said the group promoted views that were not in line with “Alabama values.”
Ivey’s administration said in a press release later that the money did not come from the state.
“Any suggestion that the Free2Be grant is an expense of state dollars which could have been used for any other purpose is simply wrong, and illustrates a lack of understanding of federal grant processes,” the statement said.
It was not until later in the day that state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, capped off the day’s controversy with social media posts that suggested Ivey was gay. Todd’s response came after Ivey said she “certainly disagreed” with Free2Be’s goals.
Todd, who is Alabama’s only openly gay representative, has threatened in the past to expose closeted lawmakers. According to her, the rumor that Ivey is gay has been around for years.
Todd’s accusation was met with a strong pushback by an Ivey spokesperson who called it a “disgusting lie.” Ivey herself reiterated those comments on Wednesday and called Todd a “left wing political operative.”
“There is absolutely no truth to it,” Ivey said. “It’s false. It’s wrong. It’s a bald-faced lie. And I’m not gonna let them get away with it. Whether these attacks are malicious or ignorant or both – they represent everything that’s wrong with politics today.”
Todd’s future as an executive director of an LGBT group may also be in jeopardy. The retiring state representative was poised to become the executive director of One Orlando Alliance, which was founded in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting that targeted the LGBT community.
The group told al.com on Wednesday that they were reviewing Todd’s comments in an emergency board meeting. According to al.com, the board will announce on Friday if any action will be taken on Todd’s comments.
The Alabama Political Reporter reached out to the group through an email for comment, but they have yet to respond.