MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who had been considered a safe incumbent as she seeks a second full-term in office, is drawing challengers in next year’s 2022 Republican primary with candidates gambling that they can capitalize on ties to former President Donald Trump or conservative voter dissatisfaction with the pandemic and other matters.
Lynda Blanchard, who was Trump’s ambassador to Slovenia, is switching from the U.S. Senate race to the gubernatorial contest, according to a copy of a campaign event invitation she tweeted. Toll road developer Tim James, the son of former Alabama Gov. Fob James, confirmed Monday that he is launching a primary challenge against Ivey.
Blanchard’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the invitation that said a Tuesday campaign announcement was sponsored by the Lynda Blanchard campaign for governor.
James said he is entering the race because he believes many conservative voters are “anxious” about the state’s recent political decisions. Among them, he cited a gas tax increase, a push by some Republicans to legalize casinos, a medical marijuana program, and aspects of the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic such as past mask mandates on K-12 students.
“This is not who the people of this state are,” James said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s certainly not what normal, conventional-type Republicans believe in.”
James ran for governor in 2002 and 2010, when he narrowly missed making the GOP runoff, finishing about 200 votes behind eventual winner Robert Bentley. Bentley went on to win the post that year.
Ivey is seeking her second full term after Bentley stepped down in 2017 amid a legislative push to impeach him.
Blanchard has scheduled a Tuesday campaign event in Wetumpka.
Taking on a well-funded incumbent is typically an uphill battle in a primary. James is already known to primary voters. Blanchard, a businesswoman and mother of eight, is expected to lean into her ties to Trump, who remains popular among state Republicans.
“The MAGA Movement is the heart and soul of this nation. I entered the Senate race to serve Alabama’s people, and no matter what the future may bring, that will always be my main goal,” Blanchard said last month amid speculation she was switching races.
Trump on Monday backed former U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in that state’s GOP primary next year. Trump encouraged Perdue to run after lashing out at Kemp, claiming he did not do enough to overturn Democratic President Joe Biden’s electoral victory in Georgia.
It is unclear if Trump will weigh in on the Alabama race. He told Newsmax on Monday that he is looking at races but did not mention any candidate by name.
“Well, I look at Alabama. It’s been a great state. I won it by record numbers, as you know. And a lot of people (are) asking for endorsements. And I’ll probably endorse people, various people at Alabama,” Trump said, noting he has already endorsed U.S. Mo Brooks in the U.S. Senate race.
The primary is set for May 24, 2022.
Stacy Lee George, a correctional officer and former Morgan County commissioner, is already running against Ivey.
Speaking about the growing field, James noted his father used to say that “a governor’s race ought to draw a crowd.”
Fob James served two terms as governor, once as a Democrat after being elected in 1978 and then as a Republican after being elected in 1994.