Gov. Kay Ivey repeated common refrains from her campaign at a stop in Auburn on Saturday.
The event, held at the Red Barn and sponsored by the Lee County Republican Party, was one of two scheduled for the day, the second being in Pelham, Alabama.
As soon as Ivey approached the podium, people in the barn welcomed the governor with a resounding “War Eagle” in a crowd that included U.S. Rep. Mike Rodgers, Mayor Bill Ham and Mayor-elect Ron Anders.
“This is football season, you know, so we use football terms from time to time,” Ivey said. “And so today, we’ll check out our box-scores.”
The first score up was education. Ivey discussed her plan to improve struggling schools through her Strong Start, Strong Finish program — a program that focuses on early education, computer sciences and workforce preparedness.
The next score was jobs. Ivey touted the 16,000 created during her tenure.
“Together, we’ve experienced the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history,” Ivey said.
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This happened in September of last year. The unemployment rate was 3.8 percent and matched the lowest rate ever, according to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics. Since that time, however, unemployment rates have risen to 4.1 percent in September of this year.
Alabama's current unemployment rate is higher than the national average of 3.9 percent and higher than each of Alabama’s neighboring states, except for Mississippi.
She then addressed the influx of companies coming to the state, such as an Amazon fulfillment facility in Bessemer and a Toyota-Mazda manufacturing facility in Huntsville.
“People are working in businesses, and companies have learned that we are really serious in our state about building a trusting government and a thriving economy,” Ivey said, to the sound of the crowd clapping.
The score regarding the number of state troopers on Alabama’s highways was also addressed and updated.
“When I took office, there were 313 state troopers on the highway, and I realized that wasn’t enough,” Ivey said.
If elected governor, she promised to have more than 400 state troopers by February of next year.
But according to the Center for Advanced Public Safety at the University of Alabama, that won’t be enough. The study states that approximately 1,016 troopers and supervisors should be patrolling Alabama's highways, more than double the amount Ivey is promising.
Ivey concluded her score-checking and 12-minute speech with a football analogy that has been constant throughout her campaign.
“The state of Alabama is looking for a head coach,” Ivey said. “I’m the only person applying for this job that has actual experience coaching at this level.”
As far as higher education, Ivey told The Plainsman the state has to be “prudent” and just because the budgets are better, doesn’t mean they can fulfill every demand from universities.
“We’ll address those issues going forward,” Ivey said.
Duane Gaither, who has lived in Auburn his whole life and works in manufacturing, said he came to the event to ask Ivey one question: How does she plan to bring manufacturing jobs back?
“I don’t even have to ask her because if you listen to her speech, she addressed it,” Gaither said.
Ivey said in her speech that the state “needs to better equip, with either a two-year degree, certificate or credential,” jobs that “require more than a high school education, but less than a four-year degree” for people like Gaither going into and working in manufacturing fields.
“I could care less about Republican or Democrat,” Gaither said. “I’ve been both in my life. I don’t vote for the party; I vote for the person.”
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