MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Kay Ivey clinched the Republican nomination in Alabama's gubernatorial primary race Tuesday, and now she seeks to win the office outright after her appointment 14 months ago, when predecessor Robert Bentley resigned in the fallout of a sex-tinged scandal.
She will face Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who won the Democratic nomination. Alabama hasn't elected a Democrat to the governor's office since 1998, but the party has been energized by a win in December's U.S. Senate race and seeks a resurgence in state politics.
"With this election, we stand at a crossroads of the past versus the future," told supporters at his election party in Tuscaloosa. "I choose to turn the pages of the past and write a new chapter that makes the 21st century an Alabama century."
Maddox defeated former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and other candidates. He's been Tuscaloosa mayor since 2005 and is running on a platform that includes establishing a state lottery to fund college scholarships and other education programs, and expanding the state's Medicaid program. He had the valuable endorsements of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and the Alabama Democratic Conference, the state's largest African-American political organization.
On the GOP side, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, evangelist Scott Dawson and state Sen. Bill Hightower didn't collectively pull enough votes to force Ivey into a runoff.
In campaigning, Ivey highlighted the state's record unemployment rate, a tax cut she signed into law and the quieting of the Bentley scandal that had engulfed Montgomery.
"Y'all, we did it," Ivey told supporters at her victory party in Montgomery. "We've been saying it for months, but now the results make it all clear. Alabama is working again.
"Instead of staying stuck in the past, we moved forward and steadied the ship."
Bentley's resignation came after an alleged affair with a staffer prompted an ethics investigation and an impeachment push against him. Then-Lt. Gov. Ivey became governor in April 2017.
Ivey's challengers had condemned her refusal to debate. They indirectly questioned whether the 73-year-old is healthy enough to complete a full term. In response, Ivey released a letter from her doctor saying she has no medical issues that would prevent her "from fulfilling her obligations as governor."