According to a poll conducted exclusively for 1819 News, if the Republican primary election were held today, incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey (R) would win the primary without a runoff.
Poll results showed 57.7% of the likely Republican primary voters would vote for Ivey.
Tim James was second at 16%, followed by Lindy Blanchard at 11.8%. Undecided voters came in at 8.8%.
Lew Burdette (1.9%) and Stacy Lee George (1.1%) were the only other candidates to receive more than 1% in a field that also includes Donald Trent Jones, Dean Odle, Dave Thomas, and Dean Young.
The poll was conducted by Wisemen Consulting, an independent research company, on behalf of 1819 News. The poll was conducted from March 15-17 and was based on 905 phone respondents statewide. The poll has a margin of error of 3.4%.
“This poll reflects what I think the conventional wisdom has been from the very beginning, which is that it is going to take a strong candidate to get in there and get this race into a runoff," said Paul DeMarco, chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party and a former State Representative. "The governor was able to win four years ago with a lot of strong candidates without a runoff, and there were strong competitors in that race. In the next 60 days, the other candidates are going to have to really make sure that their television advertisements, their radio advertisements, their grassroots really connect with the voters.
"Anything is possible in Alabama politics. There is a lot of time before now and May 24 (date of the primary) so we can revisit as we get closer, but that is where we’re at now.”
The challenge, according to DeMarco, is for Ivey's opponents to show voters why a change may be needed in the governor's office.
“I think right now everybody has been looking at what’s been happening with the pandemic and now with Ukraine," DeMarco said. "I think the challengers have to really try to say, ‘Look, do you want to see a change in the governor’s office?’ That’s where the governor is going to say, ‘Look [at] what I’ve done the past four years and where Alabama is.’ Then they have to say, ‘Well, no, you disagree with her policy.'
“I think right now, over the past four years, despite a lot of issues, whether it’s the gasoline tax and all that happened during the pandemic, she has remained very popular, and I think that’s why the race is where it is right now."
The 1819 News poll, conducted by Wiseman Consulting of phone respondents from across the state from March 15-March 17, asked the question:
"If the Republican Primary for Alabama Governor were held today, who would you be most likely to vote for?"
Lindy Blanchard 11.80%
Lew Burdette 1.90%
Stacy Lee George 1.10%
Kay Ivey 57.70%
Tim James 16.00%
Donald Trent Jones 0.90%
Dean Odle 0.70%
Dave Thomas 0.30%
Dean Young 0.70%
All polls are simply a snapshot in time that reflects what the voters were thinking at the moment when there were polled. Many voters are not yet fully engaged with nine weeks left before the primary, so a poll this far out might be considered a better indicator of name recognition than it is a predictor of what will happen on May 24. That said, no incumbent Alabama governor has lost their party primary since the late Gov. Albert Brewer lost the Democratic primary to former Gov. George C. Wallace in 1970.
William Heartstill, speaking for the Ivey campaign, said this poll - like others - continues to show the governor with a significant advantage.
“Yet again, we see another poll that shows Gov. Ivey with an overwhelming lead, positioned to win without a runoff,” Heartsill said. “Republicans are energized and fired up to vote for Kay Ivey on May 24.”
Recent polling has shown varying support in the governor's race.
A poll recently released from the Alabama Forestry Association had Kay Ivey with 60% of likely voters. Tim James came in second with just 13.6% of the vote. Lindy Blanchard was polling at 10.6% support. Stacy George came in fourth with 1.4% of the vote. Some 14.4% were undecided. Other candidates were not included in the poll results.
Another poll, commissioned by Alabama Daily News and Gray Television, asked who they would vote for if the election was held today had 46.1% of Republican primary voters choosing Ivey, while 12.4% chose businessman Tim James and 10.4% chose former U.S. Ambassador Lindy Blanchard. The survey showed that 21.3% of voters remain undecided in the race. That poll is significant because a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff with the second-place finisher.
Ivey was elevated to governor in 2017 when then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) resigned. Ivey was elected in her own right in 2018. Ivey has spent $2,856,362.07 on her re-election campaign thus far according to her Feb. 28 filing with the Alabama Secretary of State's office.
Greenville businessman Tim James is the son of former Gov. Fob James (R). This is his third campaign for the GOP nomination for governor. His campaign has spent $1,438,356.41.
James campaign spokesperson Brett Doster told 1819 News, “We pay no attention to polls other than our own internals. They show a steady rise for Tim James on a trajectory to win or punch our ticket for the runoff. Alabama wants a strong governor who will lead on issues like gas taxes, stopping Washington overreach, and improving our failing schools."
Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard was in third with just 11.8%. Blanchard has spent $3,332,388.40 on this campaign through Feb. 28.
Blanchard Campaign spokesperson Apryl Marie Fogel told 1819 News, “The campaign does not have a comment on that poll.”
Businessman Lew Burdette came in fourth with 1.9%.
1819 News spoke with Burdette’s campaign manager Kenny Dean about the race.
“Historically, the voters don’t pay much attention until March or April,” Dean said. “We are just ramping up the campaign. We have done a bulk digital ad purchase and plan to be on the air with TV ads.
“We are really building up our volunteer base. Kay Ivey was a Democrat for half of her career. When she came into office, she governed like a Democrat. The first thing she did was raise taxes.”
Burdette is the President of the King’s Home and was a longtime executive with Books-a-Million.
Former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy Lee George came in fifth in the poll.
George told 1819 News that is “where he expected to be” this early on in the campaign.
“It means I am in fifth,” George said. “Right in the middle and I just started campaigning today.
“I just ordered my signs today. The Holy Spirit is going to help (me) become governor. I know it, but I don’t know how.”
Donald Trent Jones was preferred by 0.9% of respondents.
Lee County Pastor Dean Odle was at 0.7%. He is tied with Dean Young, also at 0.7%.
Springville Mayor Dave Thomas was preferred by 0.3% of those persons responding to the poll. Thomas told 1819 News that "the good news is, polls don't determine the next governor; votes do."
The Republican primary will be held on May 24th.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.
Eagle Forum, LOCAL Alabama, & Thatcher Coalition teamed up with 1819 News to host the 2022 Gubernatorial Candidate Forum. You can watch the video below.