Why does everybody seem so afraid of Kay Ivey?

I mean this question seriously. Has anyone else noticed a suspicious absence of elected pushback or criticism? Just me?

We will get to those questions in a few minutes. But first … a short Murphy and Alabama history lesson. (Don’t worry, kids. Uncle Matt will make learning fun.)

I began my career in Alabama when Governor Don Siegelman was running Montgomery like the owner of a 1960’s Double A baseball team - any gimmick to get the people interested in supporting his game and any promotion to keep money coming through the gates. Two types of customers particularly interested Don: donors, and people who needed something. There are, it turns out, a LOT of these in Alabama.

Come one, come all … just vote in the fall! 

My initial insight into Goat Hill politics was on Highway 280. It was 1999 and I was driving from Phenix City to a job interview in Montgomery.

As I rounded a corner heading to I-85, I saw it: A big, white wooden church with a huge cross on top. An old-school, dirt parking lot, dinner on the grounds, we baptize outside in the tub every other Sunday type of church. On the grass right out front was a marquee marketing sign with a big lighted arrow on top. The message on that sign?

“God says vote NO!”

I thought to myself, “I’m not sure what we are voting on … but I guess I’m a no.”

Welcome to Alabama and the lottery vote.

I remember all the hits since that fall afternoon. Like when Bob Riley got some … errr … ”odd” advice on a huge tax increase plan only to see it flame out in infamous defeat at the hands of Alabama voters.

I was there when a nobody named Robert Bentley came from nowhere to pass the lead cars (James and Byrne) in the 2010 gubernatorial primary. Seems those two boobies were focused on AEA and not the polls.

And yes …  I was there for the other boobies too. And the denial. And the coverup. And Wanda’s desk. And the resignation.

Mike Hubbard, as GOP chairman, generals a GOP political blitzkrieg in 2010 elections? Check.

Hubbard found guilty of violating the very ethics laws HE championed in the legislature after winning a supermajority in both houses? Check again.

I was inside the old State House chamber when Kay Ivey took the oath and became the second female to become our states’ top executive.

Twenty-two years of politics in this state will age a guy, and through all the ramblings and shenanigans, through all of the Democrats and (mostly) Republicans, you could always count on the loyal opposition. No matter the issue or cause and regardless of the popularity of the politicos involved, we have always enjoyed a robust and sometimes ridiculous debate on leadership, direction, priority and focus.

Which circles me back to the question.

Why is everybody (in leadership, at least) so afraid of Kay Ivey?

I ask not to suggest she isn’t a decent woman and hasn’t been a decent governor. She is wildly popular in most polls. Many would argue her stewardship through natural disasters, COVID, etc. has been above average … excellent even. I’ve heard this.

What I’ve NOT heard is a conversation amongst Republican leadership about some of the less-than-conservative decision-making during her tenure in office. A gas tax increase may have been argued to be necessary in 2019, but Ivey and her Montgomery minions didn’t argue at all. They rammed it through before debate could warm up. Why bring your position calmly and deliberately to the voters when your whiteboard in the governor’s office says you already have the votes to cram it through?

After the Alabama Legislature floundered for years, Ivey tried (and failed) to solve the prison overcrowding issue on her own. In the aftermath of her doomed proposal, my (ahem!) conservative friends used $400 million of phony federal money to bridge the borrowing gap for the $1.3 billion build. This plan might ultimately succeed to build prisons, but it’s hardly conservative.

And don’t get me started on her odd money-driven focus on gambling.

Despite what some reading might believe, this is not intended as an indictment on Governor Ivey but as a genuine concern regarding best government for the people. The loyal opposition is a vital part of political debate. Friends can disagree on the best direction for the state and remain friends. The loyal opposition can sharpen the focus of an administration that seems to drift from issue to issue, rather than rowing to the fight, as we are seeing in other southern states (COVID vaccine mandates).

And No. Jim Zeigler doesn’t count.

Underneath the surface of this is a growing riptide of rumor that, more and more, the governor is only appearing in controlled environments that do not leave her exposed to unvetted questions or subjects on which she has not been fully briefed. Is it wrong to ask how much our governor is controlling the agenda and how much she is reacting to it? Is it wrong to ask who is in charge?

If you think this question unfair, ask yourself … when was the last time you saw the governor on a debate stage? Or at a 30-minute press conference?

Does this remind you of anyone else in politics today?

I have known Kay Ivey for almost all the time I have been in Alabama. I genuinely like her. Heck … I’ll likely vote for her again.  I respect her public service and I truly appreciate it.

She (and her team) tell us they want to continue to serve Alabama in 2022 and beyond. A new election cycle looms.

I hope the loyal opposition will stand up soon and press her on why she deserves the opportunity. It’s not too much to expect her to earn it.

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