MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey received 330,743 votes Tuesday, according to unofficial results. That was 56 percent of the GOP primary ballots cast, and 47,662 more votes than the six Democrat candidates for governor combined.
To have a chance in November, Democratic nominee and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox will need a big message and a big turnout, Alabama political pundits said Wednesday.
“To put this in terms we all understand in Alabama, he’s probably a two-touchdown underdog and she’s playing at home,” University of Alabama political science professor Richard Fording said Wednesday.
“If Democrats have any chance, they need a massive blue wave that we saw in the (special U.S. Senate race) in December,” he said.
Democrat Doug Jones won the Senate race against Roy Moore amid accusations Moore pursued romantic and sexual relationships with teens when he was in his 30s. Moore denied accusations of sexual misconduct.
Ivey publicly supported Moore in the Senate race while also saying she had “no reason to disbelieve” his accusers. Maddox could use that against her, but it’s not enough.
“He has to have a blunt campaign message that says fire her and hire me,” said Glen Browder, a former Democratic U.S. congressman, Alabama secretary of state and state legislator. “A popularity contest is not going to win it for him. He has to present the voters with a fundamental problem with Gov. Kay Ivey.”
He will need the independent voters, and some Republicans, Browder said.
Jess Brown, a retired Athens State University professor, said at least 400,000 more voters should show up in November than did Tuesday.
“Maddox is going to have to take some risks with some sharp messages and hope something catches on with some of those new voters,” Brown said.
Ivey took in and spent more than $4 million in the primary race, according to campaign finance records. Maddox took in $928,000 in the primary.
“He’s not going to have any more money than she’s got, so he’s got to have a pretty powerful message,” Browder said. “He can’t outrun her in terms of advertising and mailings.”
Fording said Maddox, 45, is probably the strongest Democratic candidate for governor in recent history, and would be a contrast to Ivey, 73, on a debate stage.
Ivey avoided debates with her GOP challengers and is expected to do the same with Maddox. Other incumbent governors have ignored challengers, including in 2014 when Gov. Robert Bentley declined Parker Griffin’s invitations for debate.
“I have to think he has to have a plan, something we’re not aware of,” Browder said.