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Candidates gearing up for Wednesday’s GOP gubernatorial debate — without the governor

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The Republican candidates for governor – with the exception of the governor – are scheduled to debate from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham.

Ivey is the current office holder, and is leading the field in fundraising, but she says she has a prior commitment in Mobile and can’t appear.

That gives the stage to her rivals in the primary, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Hoover evangelist Scott Dawson and Mobile-area Sen. Bill Hightower.

Battle told WHNT News 19 today that he’s looking forward to the debate and delivering a message.

“If anything, we want people to come away with: we are the candidate who has been there and done that,” Battle said. “We’ve taken on education, we’ve taken on roads, we provided jobs, we’ve made our community better by doing all that. Can we do that same thing for the state of Alabama? Are we’re the only one who’s going to be sitting on that stage who has a history and a record of doing that.”

Dawson says the debate will give him an opportunity to connect with voters, including in the live audience and those following the live stream.

“I’m trying to share my vision for Alabama, to restore faith in our leaders,” Dawson said. “If we lose faith in our leaders, we lose faith in the future. You can live for days without food, but you can’t live for one second without hope.

“What I long to do, is restore charge in the office, give a voice to the people and birth hope in our future.”

Hightower said Wednesday the live audience will be different for all the candidates and reflects the interest in the race around Alabama. Hightower said he’s seen voters across the state engaged by the governor’s race. He said he wants to focus on the path forward for the state.

“One of the things that’s important to this debate is how each candidate sees the future,” Hightower said. “And I’ve been very clear in mapping that out in my ‘Alabama First’ program (available on Hightower’s website). I want to differentiate myself from the other candidates in the race by giving Alabamians a vision on how we improve the outcomes in future years — from a business perspective, an educational perspective and a community perspective.”

Both Battle and Dawson said they hope Ivey appears.

“I think it’s important for each of us to talk about our vision for the future, to talk about what we’ve done in the past,” Battle said.

Hightower added it’s important for Republican voters to have an opportunity to vet all the potential nominees for governor and Ivey’s non-participation in the debates deprives voters of that chance.

“If we don’ properly vet the Republican nominee, then when the November election comes, we can rest assured that the Democrat will vet the candidate,” he said. “We need to pre-test our candidates before they get to that point.”

“And the pressure of the debate enables Alabamians to see who has the strength for the next four years.”




The debate will be televised on WHNT-2 and streamed live on and the WHNT News 19 app.