Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Vote Kay Ivey for Lt. governor

As the election approaches, three things are becoming increasingly certain: Robert Bentley will be elected governor, Luther Strange will be elected state attorney general, and John McMillan will replace Ron Sparks as agriculture commissioner. Indeed, Republicans are poised to sweep all the state’s constitutional offices, except one: the office of lieutenant governor.

In that contest, we have a real race. It is between Kay Ivey, the reform-minded treasurer of Alabama, and Jim Folsom, the incumbent. It is the one competition that will be decided by a small margin.

That small margin will make a big difference.

Lieutenant governor is a quiet position, seldom heard from until its occupant runs for governor. That tradition was scrapped last year when Folsom decided to run instead for re-election, breaking a streak of lieutenant governors’ pursuing the Governor’s Mansion a streak dating back to Don Siegleman in 1998.

However, outside of campaign season, the lieutenant governor still wields a lot of power. He or she has responsibility for overseeing the Alabama Senate, assigning senators to committees and presiding over the senate while it is in session.

Given the hodgepodge of corruption our state legislature has become, we could use a change there.

Ivey, who has spent two terms in Montgomery as treasurer, is still an outsider compared to Folsom, who served as both lieutenant governor and governor in the late 1980s and early 90s.  His dad was also elected governor twice, in 1946 and 1954.

Folsom portrays himself as the same good ole boy, hardly mentioning his party affiliation in his campaign. Yet, there is no one in Montgomery more closely tied to the Democratic party than Folsom. And he remains the party’s lone hope for keeping a powerful position in its grips this year.

He has attacked Ivey for the state’s prepaid college tuition program, PACT, which is managed by the treasurer’s office and required a $500 million bailout from the state earlier this year.

However, Ivey was responsible only for managing the day-to-day operations of the program. Responsibility for the unsustainable foundation of PACT actually belongs to Folsom, who helped start the initiative in 1990. Folsom also pushed the bailout that was passed this year.

Regardless of the PACT past, Ivey has focused her campaign on the underlying problem of exorbitant increases in college tuition. She plans to use her experience as state treasurer to help wring savings out of college budgets, which would ultimately help all students, not just those enrolled in the prepaid program.

Ivey’s expertise in financial management will be helpful next year when stimulus funds expire and the state is left without a revenue stream to fill the void created by the stagnant economy.  The senate is going to have to make difficult choices; Ivey, who cut millions of dollars out of her own office’s budget, is ready to lead them in that process.

Ivey also plans to prioritize something anathema to the senate’s culture – ethics. Ivey supports banning PAC-to-PAC transfers, which allow political donors to pass money around between multiple political action committees before it arrives to a candidate, thus concealing the true source of campaign contributions. A ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers has failed every year in the senate under Folsom’s leadership. 

These issues alone make Ivey the preferable candidate, as it is hard to imagine the destructive culture of the senate changing much under yet another term of Folsom’s leadership.

However, she faces strong obstacles. Alabama has elected only one Republican lieutenant governor since 1874. Since 1986, a seemingly schizophrenic electorate has chosen, in each state election, a lieutenant governor from a different party than the governor. This brings into question the issue of why we elect the governor and Lt. governor on different tickets in the first place.

Maybe Alabamians just like divided government. But dividing the top two positions in the executive branch precludes cooperation, incentivizes politicization as the lieutenant governor inevitably looks to the Governor’s Mansion, and leaves an unnecessary state of hostility within the executive branch. Imagine, after all, if presidential elections were structured the same way, and Sarah Palin had been elected to serve as Barack Obama’s vice president. That would be quite a sight.

The solution, then, is to elect a governor and lieutenant governor from the same party, with the same vision of what the state of Alabama can be. For voters who believe the state of Alabama is the best it can be already, Folsom is the right candidate. However, for those who believe we can do better, Ivey is the better choice.

After all, Alabamians have already given Dr. Bentley a 20-point lead in pre-election polls. Why not also give him a lieutenant governor he can work with, and a partner in fighting the gambling-union machine that runs the state legislature in Montgomery?

Tray Smith is the opinions editor of the Crimson White. His column runs on Fridays. 

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