BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Three of the four Republican candidates for governor took part in a 90-minute debate in Birmingham Wednesday night, and it’s fair to say the absence of Gov. Kay Ivey was noted by her rivals.
Ivey was attending an Alabama Gulf Recovery Council dinner in Mobile Wednesday night.
She has been in office just over a year, and with campaign season in full swing, Ivey's been busy traveling outside Montgomery.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle pointed that out Wednesday night.
“Let’s just say there’s probably a consortium trying to run the government,” he said. “And they are trying to run the government in the best way they can. But, is Kay Ivey really running the government, day to day operations?
“I mean she’s on jets going here and there, passing out more checks than the PTA or Publisher’s Clearinghouse has ever thought of passing out. When do you have time to govern?”
Bill Hightower, an Alabama Senator from Mobile, used the candidate’s questioning period to talk about Ivey, even though he was addressing a question to Battle.
“Mayor Battle, Kay Ivey has called herself the education governor,” Hightower said. “But she was absent for the first five months in any board of education meeting, whatsoever. Now you’re over a city, I guess with some of the most educated people in Alabama and I want to know, do you think she’s ‘education governor?’”
Hoover evangelist Scott Dawson said the governor needs to do a better job leading on the issue of ethics reform. He criticized Ivey’s decision to sign House Bill 317, which critics say weakened the ethics law by exempting people identified as “economic development professionals” from having to register as lobbyists.
“Especially on the heels of yet another indictment, another arrest, I think Republicans need to step forward and go, ‘Let’s build the best ethics we can’ and live within those guidelines,” Dawson said.
WHNT News 19 partnered with AL.com and ABC 33/40 in Birmingham to present the Republican gubernatorial debate Wednesday night. It was held at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham.
The candidates were also asked if they supported Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, whose campaign was effectively derailed by accusations by a number of women who said they were involved with Moore nearly 40 years ago, including allegations of sexual touching and one alleged sexual assault.
All three men said they voted for Moore.
Dawson said that after the allegations emerged he met with Moore’s pastor of the past 25 years who praised Moore’s character. Dawson described the allegations as serious, but also, just allegations, on the eve of an election for a U.S. Senate seat.
“If he’s guilty, he will be removed, but at that point we had not heard enough, seen enough, studied enough that I could take one person’s opinion over another,” Dawson said. “So I did. I will answer your question, I did vote for Roy Moore.”
Battle said he’d committed to supporting the Republican nominee in the race, but also said if the allegations were true, Moore shouldn’t serve as a senator.
“You heard the allegations, then you come across somebody in Enterprise, Alabama who served with him in Vietnam, who was also with him in every campaign he went through, and was a church member with him,” Battle said. “And felt like that he was the most honorable man in the world."
"Two different opinions there, I ended up voting Republican."
Hightower also said the allegations were serious, but he had trouble supporting Moore’s opponent Democrat Doug Jones. Hightower said the U.S. Senate could sort out if Moore had done something wrong.
"I didn’t have the investigative powers to do so," Hightower said. "But if they were true, just like anybody else, Senators don’t get a special ride. They need to be dealt with."
"But, in the end, I couldn’t vote for the other candidate. I just got through telling you he voted against the ‘pain-capable abortion bill.’ That’s my grandson right in the front row there, I had newborn grandbaby. What are we doing in society?"