Contributed by Steve Flowers • AL Political Columnist
Now that the dust has settled from last week’s gubernatorial primaries, let’s analyze the outcome.
Governor Kay Ivey and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox won very impressive victories. Ms. Ivey beat three well financed opponents without a runoff. She trounced them. She garnered 56 percent of the vote to 25 percent for Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. Evangelist Scott Dawson and Mobile State Senator Bill Hightower brought up the rear with 13 percent and 5 percent respectively. All three men worked hard and raised money. It was a daunting task to defeat a sitting governor.
The challenge now goes to youthful, vibrant, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who captured the Democratic nomination with a brilliant and impressive victory.
Maddox’s win may have been more impressive than Ivey’s. He had to defeat a field of five. He did so, like Ivey, without a runoff. He also received 55 percent of his primary vote. His closest challenger was former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, who got 29 percent. Former Cullman State Representative James Fields ran third in the Democratic primary with 9 percent of the vote.
Polling revealed three months out that Kay Ivey had an insurmountable lead. Remarkably, the same polls had her with the almost identical 30-point lead three weeks out. Her numbers were 45 to Battle’s 12, Dawson 9, and Hightower 4 in mid-February and again as late as mid-May.
The only way to diminish that kind of lead is to go negative. Battle refused to go negative, which negated any chance he had to overtake her. He was the only one of the three with the financial resources to decimate her numbers. He chose to use his campaign largesse to buy name identification. He is probably planning on making another run for governor in 2022. Thus, making this his get acquainted race. Kay will more than likely not be a candidate for reelection in 2022, if indeed she survives the November general election against the Democrat Walt Maddox.
All three dawdled with the scheme to go after Kay’s age, cognizance, and health. The first to use the ploy was Hightower. In a veiled way to draw attention to Kay’s health, he released his medical report. Dawson and Battle followed suit with statements from their doctors saying they were fine. The media took the bait and smelled blood. They caught Kay off guard and off script. She first gave some ambiguous, befuddled response. Then when her campaign handlers had time to survey the scenario, they realized that all the three men did was to get a written statement from their primary physician that simply stated they were in generally good health. Well, Kay could do that. The issue was diffused and laid to rest.
Presidential candidates cannot get by with broad, benign statements that they are fine. They are made to reveal their medical records and history. This is sometimes pretty private and quite revealing. Every medical problem, procedure, medication, and disease contracted is shown. There is a reason that Bill Clinton did not release his medical records.
The gentleman award in the GOP Primary goes to Mayor Tommy Battle and Preacher Scott Dawson in the Governor’s race and State Senator Rusty Glover in the Lt. Governor’s race. They were vibrant and positive. Their sincerity and candor were refreshing. They gave hope that good people will enter Alabama politics. However, they also gave renewed credence to the old adage, “nice guys finish last.” This maxim is especially true in politics.
One of the most interesting stories of this year’s gubernatorial election is that when Kay Ivey was a student at Auburn University 52 years ago, she cut her teeth in politics campaigning for Lurleen Wallace for governor. Lurleen won that race going away. In 1966, Governor Lurleen Wallace defeated 10 male opponents without a runoff. She is our only elected female governor in our state’s history. Ironically, if Kay is elected in November, she will be our second elected female governor.
Kay Ivey also made a special friend at Auburn. She and Jimmy Rane met and bonded at the Loveliest Village on the Plain. Rane, better known as the Yellow Man from his commercials, founded Great Southern Wood Company and has forged it into one of America’s great companies. Rane runs his company out of Abbeville and still resides in his native Henry County. Rane and Ivey have remained fast friends over the years. He has been an integral part of her campaign. He has been her largest personal contributor. In addition, she used Rane’s Great Southern jet to fly around the state on her final day of campaigning.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at steveflowers.us.