Ivey leaving governor’s race to run for lt. gov

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2010

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Republican State Treasurer Kay Ivey switched to the lieutenant governor’s race Wednesday after struggling to stand out in the crowded contest for governor.

“There is an eight-candidate field for governor, and it’s all jumbled up right now,” Ivey said in an interview.

Ivey joins school teacher Gene Ponder of Daphne, Gulf Shores businessman Dean Young, and state Sen. Hank Erwin of Montevallo in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor on June 1. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Jim Folsom Jr. in the general election Nov. 2.

Ivey had once been considered a strong contender for governor, but then the state’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition plan, which she administers, ran into financial problems.

Ivey had been financing her gubernatorial campaign largely with personal funds. In January, she filed a campaign finance report showing she had lent her campaign more than $1.7 million and had received $87,019 in contributions.

She said Wednesday she was focused more on public service than on the governor’s office. “I’m just determined to provide effective leadership,” she said.

Byrdie Larkin, a political scientist at Alabama State University, said Ivey ran TV ads for several weeks and then dropped off TV recently, indicating problems with support or finances.

“She is a savvy politician. She is very folksy. If it had not been for PACT, people would have been supportive of her,” Larkin said.

She said Ivey is a good campaigner, entering a Republican primary that had lacked a candidate who is well known statewide. But Larkin said no matter who wins the primary, taking on Folsom in November will be difficult.

Ivey’s switch comes two days before the deadline for candidates to sign up for this year’s elections.

Erwin, the first GOP candidate to announce for lieutenant governor, said Ivey enters a race where many Republican Party activists have already made commitments to support candidates, and it will be difficult for her to overcome that.

For instance, he said Republican Gov. Bob Riley had already agreed to be a special guest at a fundraising event for him April 23 in Birmingham.

“If she had declared for lieutenant governor a year ago — or even six or eight months ago — it might have been a different story,” Erwin said.

Ponder said Ivey realized she couldn’t win the governor’s contest and was looking for a race where she had a better chance. “That’s politics as unusual in Alabama,” he said.