Alabama’s lieutenant governor gained her post in an upset win in 2010, and now she’s on the other end of that dynamic: guarding against an upset in the race to keep her job.
In 2010, Republican Kay Ivey beat a member of one of Alabama’s most famous political families, then-Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., a Democrat. On Nov. 4, she’ll face Democratic Rep. James Fields, who says he can make an upset happen.
Fields shocked voters in 2008 by winning a special election to represent the city of Cullman in the Alabama House. Few thought he had a chance, and he said that gives him hope now.
“People said an African-American Democrat could not win in Cullman, a 98 percent white district and 80 percent Republican. And James Fields won by 60 percent. That speaks volume of the trust and faith of white and black. Republicans, Democrats, independents and Libertarians trusted James Fields,” Fields said.
In this race, Ivey has the bigger campaign chest, a long list of endorsements from business interests, and the ability to campaign as part of a GOP leadership team that has controlled Montgomery since the 2010 election.
She said that team can take credit for downsizing state government, reducing unemployment, not raising taxes, passing balanced budgets, and creating tax credits and scholarships to help low-income students move from failing public schools to private schools.
Ivey, Gov. Robert Bentley and some other team leaders easily survived Republican primary challenges, and they are counting on doing the same Nov. 4.
“We did what we said we would do. That, in itself, is a mark of distinction for the team elected in November 2010 and, hopefully, re-elected on November 4,” she said.
Fields knows about the power of the Republican team in 2010. After his big win in 2008, he got upset in 2010 by Republican Mac Buttram of Cullman. That victory helped Republicans take control of the Legislature for the first time in 136 years. Fields said he underestimated the backlash that Republicans created against Washington. “I never saw it as a threat to me, but it was,” he said.
This time, he’s trying to create his own backlash by faulting Republicans for refusing to expand Medicaid, opposing legislation to raise the minimum wage, giving state tax credits for private school attendance, and fighting legislation to create a state lottery to fund education programs.
“These guys don’t know what they are doing, or maybe they do. Maybe they have set out to destroy the moral fabric of our lives as Alabamians as we know it,” he told College Democrats recently at Alabama State University.
Fields is retired from the state Department of Industrial Relations and serves as minister at St. James United Methodist Church in Irondale.
Ivey has a background in banking and education and served eight years as state treasurer before becoming lieutenant governor. In 2010, she entered the governor’s race but switched to lieutenant governor when the gubernatorial field got crowded. Few gave her much chance when she took on the better-funded and better-known Folsom, but Republicans won every statewide race in 2010.
As lieutenant governor, one of Ivey’s main duties is presiding over the state Senate.
Fields said that unlike Ivey, he would be fair to both parties. “We’ve got a lieutenant governor who turns a deaf ear to the other side of the aisle, and that is definitely wrong. That is not democracy; that is a dictatorship,” Fields said.
Ivey said she has moved along bills that the Republican majority wants because it has the votes to pass them. “When you are in the minority, as the Democrats are, they’re not going to have the votes to get anything passed. So they delay and criticize,” she said.
Between legislative sessions, the lieutenant governor usually has little to do. But the Legislature made Ivey chair of a state commission charged with preparing for the next round of military base closures and realignments. Her role with the Military Stability Commission has allowed her to meet with military and private-sector leaders across the state.
“Military in our state is not only critical to our national security, but it’s a major economic engine. And like any engine, it needs maintenance,” Ivey said.
Some members of the Republican leadership team in Montgomery have been subpoenaed by the attorney general’s office to appear before a special grand jury in Lee County investigating possible government corruption. Ivey said she isn’t one of them.
“We just try to tend to our own business and stay above board with everything we do,” she said.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.