By JAY REEVES, Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Facing eight challengers in Alabama’s Republican primary, Gov. Kay Ivey repeated former President Donald Trump’s false claims about election theft. Then, the white-haired, 77-year-old Ivey sat at her office desk and pulled three things out of her purse for a commercial campaign: a lipstick, a cellphone and a revolver.
On Tuesday, voters will decide whether Ivey’s hard swing to the right was enough for her to avoid a runoff in a state where GOP candidates often struggle to out-conservative one another.
One challenger, former Trump ambassador Lindy Blanchard, has slammed Ivey for doing too much to control COVID-19 in a state with one of the nation’s worst pandemic death rates. Another, toll bridge developer Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, did the same and attacked a charter school that opened under Ivey’s watch to cater to LGBTQ youth.
Other challengers include Lew Burdette, a former business executive who runs Christian-based group homes; Stacy George, a prison officer and former county commissioner; pastor Dean Odle; GOP activist and businessman Dean Young; Springville Mayor Dave Thomas; and a yoga advocate, Donald Trent Jones.
A runoff will be held June 21 if no one gets over 50% of the vote.
The eventual GOP nominee will face whoever emerges from a Democratic primary of six little-known and poorly financed candidates that includes state Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier of Selma, the only one in the group to hold public office.
Lieutenant governor at the time, Ivey was catapulted to the state’s top office when Robert Bentley resigned amid scandal in 2017. She easily dispatched four Republican primary challengers and won a full term against a well-financed Democrat, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, in 2018.
Ivey has pushed a plan to construct new lockups to upgrade Alabama’s crowded, dilapidated prisons, which are the subject of a Justice Department lawsuit, and she passed a gasoline tax hike with automatic increases to fund road work. Challengers have criticized all that as too much big government and also zeroed in on her handling of the pandemic.
While some bash Ivey over a COVID-19 response that left the state with nearly 20,000 dead and the nation’s fourth-highest death rate, Republican opponents have hammered her for shutting down businesses and churches to prevent the spread of disease. In a state where roughly 51% are fully vaccinated, Ivey’s claim that it was “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for illness could come back to haunt her.
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