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Kay Ivey, the current governor of Alabama. Photo: WAAY Tv

Kay Ellen Ivey, born October 15, 1944, is an American politician serving as the 54th and current governor of Alabama since 2017. A member of the Republican Party, she was the 38th Alabama State Treasurer from 2003 to 2011 and the 30th lieutenant governor of Alabama from 2011 to 2017.

Kay Ivey's Early Life

Ivey was raised in Camden, Alabama. She attended Auburn University, Duke University's Governor's Center for Public Policy, Alabama Banking School, and the University of Colorado School of Banking. Prior to entering public service, Ivey was director of government affairs for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education from 1985 to 1998, assistant director of the Alabama Development Office from 1982 to 1985, and a reading clerk for the Alabama House of Representatives from 1980 to 1982. Ivey was also assistant vice president of Merchants National Bank/Regions Bank from 1970 to 1979.

In addition to her professional duties, Ivey is a member of the First Baptist Church of Montgomery, the Montgomery Rotary Club, the Board of Directors of the Montgomery YMCA and the Tukabatchee Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

Kay Ivey's Politics Career

In 1979, she was appointed by then-Governor Fob James to serve in the state cabinet. She later served as the reading clerk of the Alabama House of Representatives between 1980 and 1982 and served as Assistant Director of the Alabama Development Office between 1982 and 1985.

In 1982, Ivey ran unsuccessfully for State Auditor as a Democrat. She was Director of Government Affairs and Communications for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education from 1985 until 1998.

Ivey took office as state treasurer in 2003, after defeating Stephen Black, the grandson of former the United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, in the 2002 general election, by a margin of 52–48%. In 2006, Ivey was re-elected over Democrat Steve Segrest by a 60–40% margin. She was the first Republican elected state treasurer since Reconstruction.

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Photo: Wsfa-tv

As Treasurer, Ivey also oversaw the near complete financial collapse of the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (PACT) program. Under this program, tens of thousands of Alabama families were assured by the state that their investment in the program would guarantee their children four years of tuition at any state college. Following the program's inception, many of the state's colleges increased the cost of tuition at triple the inflation rate (or more), so the program became financially unsustainable and was subsequently bailed out by the Alabama state legislature. This unprecedented and unforeseen increase in intuition was not taken into account when the program was developed.

Under the Alabama Constitution, Ivey was not eligible to seek reelection to a third term as state treasurer in 2010. Her name surfaced in press speculation about gubernatorial candidates in 2010.

In 2009, Ivey announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor in the 2010 elections, joining a crowded field of seven Republican candidates. In March 2010, Ivey abandoned her run for governor and qualified to run for lieutenant governor. She ran against State Senator Hank Erwin of Montevallo and schoolteacher Gene Ponder of Baldwin County for the Republican nomination. In the June 2010 primary election, Ivey won the nomination with 56.6% of the vote, to Erwin's 31.4% and Ponder's 12%.

In the November 2010 elections, in a Republican sweep of statewide offices, Ivey defeated Democratic incumbent Lieutenant Governor Jim Folsom Jr., who had sought an unprecedented fourth term. Ivey received 764,112 votes to Folsom's 718,636.

In 2014, Ivey was challenged in the Republican primary by pastor Stan Cooke of Jefferson County. Ivey received the support of major lobbying groups, such as the Business Council of Alabama, Alabama Retail Association, Alabama Farmers Federation, and Alabama Forestry Association. Ivey defeated Cooke in the primary, with 257,588 votes (61.68%) to Cooke's 160,023 (38.32%). In the general election, Ivey faced Democratic nominee James C. Fields, a former state legislator. In November 2014, Ivey won reelection with 738,090 votes to Fields's 428,007. This marked the first time a Republican was reelected lieutenant governor in the state's history.

Governor of Alabama (2017–present)

Ivey was sworn in as governor following the resignation of Robert Bentley on April 10, 2017. She is the second female governor in the state's history. The first was Lurleen Wallace, the wife of George Wallace; she was governor for about 16 months in 1967 and 1968, until her death from cancer.

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Photo: Twitter

In April 2017, Ivey signed a bill into law that barred judges from overruling a jury's recommendation on the death penalty in sentencing in capital murder cases. Previously Alabama had been the only state with a "judicial override" that allowed a judge to sentence a defendant to death when a jury had recommended a sentence of life without parole. Before the bill was passed, Alabama's capital sentencing scheme was viewed as likely to be struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roy Moore and the 2017 special election for U.S. Senate

Former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) resigned from that office in February 2017 to serve as U.S. Attorney General, whereupon then-Governor Bentley chose Luther Strange to succeed Sessions in the Senate until a special election, which Bentley controversially scheduled to align with the 2018 general election instead of sooner. When Ivey succeeded Bentley, she rescheduled the special election for December 12, 2017.

After former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore won the Republican nomination for that U.S. Senate seat, The Washington Post published an article revealing allegations of sexual abuse against minors by Moore, which caused many Republican voters and groups in Alabama to withdraw their support for him. There began to be discussed as to whether Ivey would delay the election to allow the Republicans to field an alternative candidate. Ivey subsequently said: "The election date is set for December 12. Were [Strange] to resign I would simply appoint somebody to fill the remaining time until we have the election on December 12." Ivey stated on November 17 that although she had no reason to disbelieve the allegations, she intended to vote for Moore to protect the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, a statement for which she was criticized. Moore lost the special election to former U.S. Attorney and Democratic nominee Doug Jones. On December 28 Ivey and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill certified the senatorial election result despite an attempt by the Moore campaign to delay certification over unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud.

Kay Ivey's Personal life

Ivey has been married and divorced twice, and has no children. Her first marriage was to Ben LaRavia; they became engaged while studying at Auburn University.

In 2019, Ivey was diagnosed with lung cancer. She received outpatient treatment at the University of Alabama at Birmingham on September 20, 2019. She said, "I am confident of God’s plan and purpose for my life." Ivey was declared cancer-free in January 2020. The cancer was Stage I and responded well to radiation treatment.

Gov. Kay Ivey issued a call today for Alabama schools to bring students back to classrooms as soon as possible, saying that online instruction is not a long-range substitute for in-person teaching.

“Due to COVID-19, 2020 has been an extremely challenging year for everyone, especially for our parents, teachers and students,” Ivey said in a statement released by her office. “I’m extremely grateful for the flexibility everyone has shown as they have adapted to virtual instruction. However, virtual and remote instruction are stop-gap measures to prevent our students from regressing academically during the pandemic. These practices cannot — and should not — become a permanent part of the instructional delivery system in 2021. As we are learning more about COVID-19, we are seeing more and more clear evidence pointing out that our students are safe in the classroom with strong health protocols in place.”

For more information about governors in the U.S, please check out our KnowInsider!

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