GOP Alabama governor side-steps debate with Democratic foe
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday dismissed a challenge to debate Democratic Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ahead of the gubernatorial election, saying only reporters and her opponent care about debates.
“There are only two people that ever bring up the subject. Y’all in the media and my opponent,” Ivey said in response to a question about it.
Ivey, who automatically became governor last year when then-Gov. Robert Bentley resigned in the fallout of a scandal, faces Maddox in the November election.
The Tuscaloosa mayor, who is running on a platform of establishing a state lottery to fund education programs, challenged Ivey this week to a series of four debates.
Asked twice if she would be willing to debate Maddox, Ivey repeated a statement from her campaign that Maddox should instead debate “himself” because he had been inconsistent on issues such as abortion.
“When he finishes debating himself we can talk,” Ivey said.
Speaking to reporters after a Friday speech in Montgomery, Ivey said she believes the people of Alabama support her agenda. She cited a poll that showed her to be the third most popular governor in the nation.
“While Kay Ivey has been in hiding, Walt Maddox has been looking the people of Alabama in the eye and answering all their questions for over a year and has consistently explained and placed his views in writing. If Kay Ivey disagrees with Walt, she should agree to debate him — It is that simple,” Chip Hill, a spokesman for the Maddox campaign wrote in an emailed statement. Hill said Maddox has been consistent on his positions.
While it has been 20 years since Alabama elected a Democratic governor, Democrats are attempting a comeback, hoping to build on momentum from last year’s election of U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.
Incumbent governors perceived as front runners sometimes avoid debates with challengers under the theory they have nothing to gain, but might be wounded in a public verbal sparring.
Ivey did not debate her opponents in the GOP primary. She easily won the primary.
In 2014, Bentley refused to debate his Democratic challenger Parker Griffith. Griffith responded by erecting a giant inflatable duck in downtown Montgomery to jab Bentley for “ducking” a debate with him. Griffith lost.
During the GOP primary, Ivey’s Republican primary challengers argued that unlike elected incumbents Ivey has never been vetted for the position of governor.
This story corrects a quote from Ivey to say “we can talk,” instead of “he can talk.”