Alabama governor skips GOP primary debate, goes to ballgame instead

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey stoked the ire of her three Republican gubernatorial primary challengers Thursday night by skipping a televised candidates debate.

Instead, Ivey attended a Birmingham Barons minor-league baseball game, where she threw out the first pitch, the Birmingham News reported. The governor claimed via Twitter that the team had invited her to attend Thursday's game "earlier this year."

The three GOP challengers promptly took their turns at bat, criticizing Ivey.

"This isn't a student government election," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. "This is an election about what is going to happen to the state of Alabama for the next four years. If you can't come out and give people your vision, your reasons, what you want to see happen, then you're not a public servant."

State Sen. Bill Hightower of Mobile, who served under the Gov. Ivey, said she never visited the state Legislature during the 2018 session.

"Look, I sat in the Senate and saw the incredible lack of leadership across the street in the Capitol," he said. "And that is the reason I'm running."

“Are we hiding something?” evangelist Scott Dawson asked.

Ivey, 73, became governor in April 2017 after then-Gov. Robert Bentley resigned over a sex scandal involving a top aide.

Throughout Thursday's debate, the challengers continually integrated Ivey’s absence into their responses to questions.

During a question about improving Alabama’s roads, Battle said Ivey needs to “ride on those roads” rather than riding in jets “across those roads.”

Battle added during closing comments, “It’s unfortunate one of us is not here, watching a baseball game rather than talking about what needs to happen in this state.”

According to the Birmingham News, Ivey turned down an invitation to participate in another debate next week. The paper reported that her campaign has thus far not submitted alternative dates for when she can attend.