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Ivey stresses record, opponents challenge her on it

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is seeking to avoid a runoff in Tuesday’s Republican primary, while her challengers are seeking to push her into one.

In the closing hours of the gubernatorial campaign, Ivey stressed her record as she seeks a second full term in office. But her opponents, including former Trump ambassador Lindy Blanchard and businessman Tim James, portrayed Ivey as not adequately conservative, citing her support of a gas tax increase to fund road and bridge construction and her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including a long-expired mask and business closure mandate.

Standing with supporters, including House Speaker Mac McCutcheon and other legislative leaders, during a Monday campaign stop in Huntsville, Ivey stressed her record on job creation and conservative issues — including gun rights and abortion — as she faces a slate of right-flank challengers. She said her opponents have tried to distort her record.

“We’re looking for a great night. Y’all have seen it for months, my opponents have been out there, spreading lies, trying to tear me down. It’s just plum sad. The good folks of Alabama know better. That dog won’t hunt,” Ivey said during the Monday campaign stop in Huntsville.

She touted legislation she signed as governor, including a bill banning transgender girls from playing on female sports teams at public schools. She said legislation she signed outlawing abortion will be the law of the state, “when Rove v. Wade is finally overturned.”

“During this campaign, we’ve stayed positive because I have a very positive record that I’m proud to run on and continue delivering on for four more years. I need y’all’s help to get this thing done without a runoff,” she said.

Blanchard said voters thought they were getting a conservative when they voted for Ivey, but said that turned out not be the case.

“She forced a gas tax on us that goes on forever, I don’t know of any Republican who would do that,” Blanchard said, referencing the tax increase which includes a mechanism for automatic increases.

“I’ll be that conservative governor who makes proactive, not reactive choices and decisions for the state and for the voters. I’m going to give the voice back to the people,” said Blanchard, who served as former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Slovenia.

James said Monday that any primary with an incumbent is a referendum on whether “you want to keep this person to lead this state for the next four years or do you want someone to take the state in a new direction.”

“We believe that the people of Alabama are ready for a change. They are ready for a new direction,” James said in a telephone interview.

“This is not personal. She is a nice lady. She is not an enemy. But the Kay Ivey today is not the same person on policy to what she was, I think, years ago.”

Ivey faces a total of eight primary challengers, including Blanchard, James — the son of former Gov. Fob James — and Lew Burdette, who runs King’s Home, a Christian-based nonprofit with group homes throughout the state. The other contenders are: former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy Lee George; Opelika pastor Dean Odle; businessman Dean Young; Donald Trent Jones and Springville Mayor Dave Thomas.

It is historically difficult for a primary challenger to defeat an incumbent governor. None of the primary challengers have the footprint to defeat Ivey alone. They instead are placing hopes that they can collectively garner enough primary votes and keep Ivey below 50% of the vote to spark a runoff and a new political ballgame.

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