Incumbent Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who is seeking her first full term, has won the GOP primary race, solidifying her position as the Republican nominee and avoiding a runoff while beating back a populous field of challengers.
Ivey, who took over the reins of the Governor’s Office in April 2017 after former Gov. Robert Bentley resigned amid a spiraling sex scandal, will proceed to the general election. Her challengers, including Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Scott Dawson and State Sen. Bill Hightower, failed to chip far enough into her lead to trigger a runoff election.
“Above all, I’m going to keep fighting to maintain your trust, and I will not let you down,” Ivey said, to cheers of “Go Kay, Go.”
To avoid a runoff, Ivey needed to capture 50 percent of the vote. At the time of publication, Ivey was exceeding that cutoff with more than 56 percent of the vote. The Associated Press called the race at 9:50 p.m.
“Tonight’s results show Alabama is working again, and that we are on the right track,” Ivey said. “I’m going to keep up the good fight. I’m looking forward to all we can accomplish in a full four years in the next four years.”
Like many sitting governors, Ivey, Alabama’s second female governor and the first female Republican governor, was far ahead of the pack in terms of fundraising and bid-named support, outraising all of her opponents. She received the support of many powerful groups, including the Business Council of Alabama and the NRA.
Ivey relied on her record.
“Instead of staying stuck in the past, we moved forward and steadied the ship, and we are stronger today than ever before. Alabama is growing again,” Ivey said, pointing to the sharp decline in Alabama’s unemployment rate during her tenure and other positive economic numbers.
The sitting governor drew criticism from her primary opponents for refusing to participate in any GOP gubernatorial debate. As the primary election neared its final weeks, Ivey was the target of questions surrounding her health and her private life.
Though no candidate publicly or directly questioned her health, the other candidates in the GOP released their health records and pressured Ivey to do the same, insinuating in statements and speeches that they had questions about her fitness to lead.
A statement from Ivey’s doctor said she was in good health.
In late May, Scott Dawson, a Birmingham evangelist who finished third in the Republican primary, accused Ivey of inappropriately providing state grant dollars to a group that backed LGBT anti-bullying initiatives. Following two press conferences in which Dawson said Ivey “betrayed Alabama values,” Alabama’s only openly gay state lawmaker, Patricia Todd, said on Twitter that Ivey may be gay.
Ivey and her campaign strongly denied the insinuation, which Ivey’s campaign portrayed as a political attack.
With a strong showing in all areas of the state — except in Battle’s home county and the surrounding areas in North Alabama — Ivey, who has repeatedly been listed as one of the U.S.’s most popular governors, did not appear to be hindered by the criticism. Battle’s support in the north wasn’t enough to trigger a runoff as he’d hoped.
Much of Ivey’s first year in office was spent distancing herself from Bentley by clearing out much of his staff and replacing them with her own. In her first press conference after taking over as Governor, Ivey promised she would turn the State around after years of political tumult, saying she would “steady the ship of state” and restore Alabama’s image.
“We’ve made great strides over the last 14 months in our great state, but the fight to preserve our conservative values continues. It is not over,” Ivey said.
Throughout much of the election, Ivey claimed she had cleaned up the state and restored its marred image from the Bentley era.
“We promised the people we would restore their faith in government,” Ivey said. “We promised we would clean up the mess in Montgomery. We created more than 13,000 jobs and increased pay checks. And we signed the largest investment in education in a decade.”
The sitting governor is expected to face off against Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, the Democratic nominee.
“I need your help, my friends, because the liberals want this job bad,” Ivey said. “They want it, but they’re not going to get it.”