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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Tuesday was a big night for those running against Governor Kay Ivey for her seat as the first gubernatorial debate was held in Huntsville for the qualified candidates.

The most notable absence was the governor herself. This is the first time that voters get to hear the campaign push from the candidates and how they will move the state forward.  

The other six candidates that were confirmed did appear; Tim James, Lindy Blanchard, Dean Odle, Lew Burdette, Donald Trent Jones, and Dave Thomas. Each candidate was given time to expand on their plans as governor.

Blanchard was the last to be introduced to the sellout crowd. After she took the stage the focus was on their campaign promises and the absence of Governor Ivey.

Both Blanchard and Tim James are widely considered the top two candidates in the race. James did not mention Ivey by name but believes candidates should take advantage of forums that allow them to go out and meet the voters. 

“I believe that part of the American political process requires discourse,” James said. “Candidates should get out amongst the people and let their positions be known.”

Blanchard added, “The main thing is now that my numbers are going up and hers are going down…I look forward to May 24 and hope everybody jumps out there and decides to vote for me.” 

The candidates called out Tim James to address his recent controversial tv ad where he attacked an LGBTIQ-friendly charter school for hosting a drag show, calling it “vile” and “evil.” James says this kind of thing should not exist in the state of Alabama.

When James was asked after the debate to further explain, he chose to place the blame of that ad on Governor Ivey. 

“The person to blame is the governor of Alabama because it is the governor of Alabama who signed the budget that appropriated the two million dollars to create the Magic City Acceptance Academy who flies the rainbow flag on the school campus,” James said. “This is a public school and if they did that at Grissom High School or any other public school in Madison county, you would have an uproar like you have never seen before.”

Last week News 19 asked Governor Ivey why she did not accept the invitation to the debate and her answer was, “I don’t know if I have been invited and my schedule is set well in advance.”

The election primary is scheduled for May 24.