At this point in the election cycle, it’s hard to sort through the candidates and find many appreciable differences heading into the primary on June 5th. All the candidates have done polling. They know what Alabama likes, and they’re trying to dish it out by the truckload.

Here are a couple of reasons to vote for and one reason to vote against each of the candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary:

Kay Ivey

#1: None of the allegations leveled against Ivey have anything to do with corruption. During a time when Alabamians need confidence in their governor, Ivey has proven character during her tenure in Montgomery. That’s no small task, and it’s a reason to support her.

#2: Business-class Republicans love Ivey and most of the grassroots conservatives get along with her just fine. Combined with relatively smooth sailing so far as Alabama’s head of state, she’s going to be a tough candidate to beat.

Against: Ivey hasn’t had so much as a swift breeze to challenge her so far in the Republican primary. She’s ducked debates, stuck to stump speeches and has an agenda that’s about as thin as onionskin. It’s the prescription for victory straight from her political handlers, and she isn’t going against them. Leaders show up regardless of politics. Ivey hasn’t.

Tommy Battle

#1: He’s overseen real growth during his tenure as mayor of Huntsville including major investments by Polaris Industries, GE Aviation and Remington. Of the four large metropolitan areas in the state, Metro Huntsville is the only one rapidly growing–up nine percent since 2010. Alabama needs to capture that kind of growth statewide. The evidence suggests Battle is the best candidate to make that happen.

#2: It’s hard to run a campaign about being a politician who simply ensures that government runs well without much fanfare. Battle is clearly a competent administrator and a pragmatic politician. He’s not going to make extreme promises, and he realizes the importance of reasonable public investments in items like infrastructure.

Against: Battle’s apparent willingness to raise taxes is his political weakness. In a climate where Alabamians expect their politicians to exercise their God-given Second Amendment right to shoot tax increases on sight, Battle refuses to swear off tax increases as a policy tool. In every other corner of the nation, he’s a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Expect a swath of Republican primary voters to label his pragmatic approach as evidence of North Alabama big government liberalism.

Scott Dawson

#1: This is the perfect political climate for populist political outsiders. Dawson fits that bill, and he has spent more time traveling across Alabama than any other candidate in the race. The evangelist turned aspiring-politician doesn’t want people of faith to stay on the political sidelines. He’s also banking they show up at the polls.

#2: Dawson is quick on his feet, but knows when to ask for help. Credit his years of public speaking, but he’s quite comfortable in the spotlight. He also readily admits that he’s going to build a team capable of addressing the state’s challenges rather than trying to wing it himself. That’s encouraging.

Against: After Dawson attacked Ivey for administering a grant to a questionable LGBTQ non-profit, retiring State Representative Patricia Todd escalated the barb by calling for Ivey to be outed as a lesbian. The whole incident left the impression that either Dawson is more politically Machiavellian than he portrays, or his political naivete is a liability.

Bill Hightower:

#1: Bill Hightower is the best public policy thinker in the gubernatorial field. Just check out his website, and you’ll see more ideas than several of the other candidates combined. Policy doesn’t usually win elections, but it’s important to solve problems that have languished in Alabama for far too long. It also means he’s willing to challenge Alabama’s political power structure that seems to rather enjoy the status quo.

#2: Hightower brings global business experience to the table. He worked in strategy and planning for Emerson Electric in St. Louis and global acquisitions with Eaton Corp. in Pittsburgh. That’s helpful in recruiting business to Alabama and generally understanding the competitive landscape among the states.

Against: Hightower is quite polished in his delivery, dress and mannerisms. In most political arenas, that’s a positive. In Alabama, it’s a liability. In a race where Kay Ivey reminds everyone of his or her favorite southern grandmother, Hightower feels like a corporate executive. If he could credibly rock a cutoff Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt and jean shorts, he’d see at least a five-point jump in the polls.

Republicans have a good a field of candidates who could capably serve as Alabama’s governor. Each brings a different mix of strengths to the ballot box. If none of the candidates receive a majority on June 5, the top two candidates head to a runoff on July 17.

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