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Who will run for governor in ’26? Latest odds on candidates jumping in

In less than two weeks, Gov. Kay Ivey will be sworn in to serve her second full term to the highest office in the state. When Ivey concludes that term in early 2027, she will have occupied the Alabama governor’s office for nearly a decade.

That firm grip on the office for such an extended period of time reserves for her a special place in Alabama political history.

It also creates a backlog of aspiring candidates who want to hear the marble floors of the Alabama State Capitol under their feet when they arrive at work every day.

The maneuvering to fill Ivey’s seat will begin soon after she takes the oath of office Jan. 16. So, it is never too soon to assess who might run.

Yellowhammer News has handicapped the likelihood of individuals qualifying to run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2026.

These are not odds to win the seat or the nomination. These odds merely represent our assessment of the likelihood an individual will submit the necessary paperwork with the Alabama Republican Party to qualify as a candidate.

The list is divided into several groupings which reflect the individuals’ collective chances of running.

Here’s how the board currently looks:

Gimme the pen and paperwork

Will Ainsworth at 2:7 – Alabama’s lieutenant governor has been building for a governor’s race for quite some time. He has assembled an extensive and well-funded campaign machine. Ainsworth receives counsel from some of the most respected consultants and pollsters in the country. On the issues, he was a leading voice against lockdowns in 2020, a strong pro-life advocate and a national leader for aerospace and defense states. He has a knack for knowing what Alabamians care about in their day-to-day lives which likely explains why he has led the field as the top vote getter in the state over the last two election cycles. Ainsworth will be ready to roll in 2026.

Steve Marshall at 2:1 – Entering his second full term as Alabama’s chief law enforcement officer, Marshall has created significant momentum for his candidacy. He has employed the perfect strategy for establishing one’s conservative credentials among Alabama voters: when in doubt, sue Joe Biden. He has fought for Alabama values in the federal courts on everything from abortion to immigration to energy freedom. Next for Marshall will be proving he can connect on a more personal level with voters.

This would be an interesting opportunity

Barry Moore at 6:1 – Moore will likely be finishing out his third term in 2026. That’s a comfortable length of time to serve in Congress and then make a move to higher office. And he is someone who has never shied away from a political battle. Having served a previous stint in state government, Moore and his wife, Heather, continue to survey the political landscape.

Jeff Coleman at 7:1 – Coleman showed in 2022 that he just can’t shake the political bug. He unsuccessfully attempted a rematch with Barry Moore in the second congressional district. Qualifying snafus aside, some around Coleman say that he has always been positioning himself for a very high state office.

Greg Reed at 8:1 – Reed has the presence of a governor. He simply carries himself differently than most others, and he has a ton of political potential. However, in his current job leading the Alabama Senate, he is the most powerful person in the state for 30 days out of the year. How much more would it mean to him the other 335 days a year? We’ll find out in 2026.

Tommy Tuberville at 10:1 – Tuberville speaks Alabamian about as well as anyone else on this list. There are also those in his sphere who believe he would entertain a campaign for governor. It will be a costly endeavor for those above him on this list to obtain the kind of name ID Tuberville currently possesses. We’ve noted in this space before that United States senator is one of the best 100 jobs in the world so one would think that would be tough to give up.

Moderate value plays

Clay Scofield at 14:1 – Some people are just good at politics. That’s Scofield. He has ascended quickly to the position of majority leader in the Alabama Senate. Whether leading a Cabinet or serving in one, big things are ahead for Scofield.

Nathaniel Ledbetter at 20:1 – Anyone who has won a nearly 18-month speaker’s race wire to wire deserves some respect on his name. The odds of Ledbetter running in his first term as Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives are probably far lower. His place on this list is more of a sign of his political muscle.

Bill Poole at 22:1 – A good rule of thumb in today’s world of Alabama politics: bet on Bill Poole. He is so well-liked among influential people, that it is hard to envision him not having a future in higher office, and his service as the state’s finance director has only continued that trend. Maybe his first statewide campaign is for attorney general. Poole and his wife, Nicole, are dynamic campaigners, so look out.

Don’t forget about these guys

Tommy Battle at 25:1 – Battle proved in 2018 that he has the chops to be competitive in a statewide campaign. North Alabama seems to be in its golden era for political power. That also means it is getting tougher and more competitive among potential statewide candidates from the region. As mayor of Huntsville, Battle may be just as happy as a kingmaker.

Rob Riley at 29:1 – Despite his family’s success in Alabama politics, Riley continues to be cautious about his own political future. He has looked closely at high office in the recent past and decided against it. So the political synapses are still snapping. When he will sign up to run is anyone’s guess.

Trip Pittman at 30:1 – The former state senator from Baldwin County continues to take part in the state’s political discourse. In addition to running his business, Pittman has reentered the fray as an outspoken opponent of Obamacare expansion in Alabama. Implementing more conservative fiscal policy for the state and the nation is something about which Pittman cares deeply. Never say never with him.

High value plays

Twinkle Cavanaugh at 40:1 – Discerning readers will understand the significance of Cavanaugh’s position on this list. Nevertheless, she has to be included based on her standing in conservative Republican circles and the extensive grassroots network she has built.

Wes Allen at 42:1 – The newly-elected Secretary of State is just getting started in Alabama politics. The safe bet is for him to get re-elected to his current office. Yet, the former Crimson Tide wide receiver has 5-star potential.

Frank Brocato at 44:1 – The city of Hoover is flying high right now. As its mayor, Brocato has been at the forefront of so much of its growth. The story of his leadership is the kind which would be attractive to Alabama voters.

Danny Garrett at 45:1 – Garrett has been successful at everything he has ever tried – first the world of business, then the world of politics. He is currently in charge of the $8 billion education budget in the Alabama House of Representatives. That’s a job with a lot of juice so running for governor would force a tough choice.

Jerry Carl at 50:1 – The congressman from Mobile has quickly gained a stellar reputation entering his second term in the office. By all accounts, he is perfectly comfortable in his current position. Still, the Gulf Coast is adept at rallying around one cause or candidate to improve its standing statewide. Carl’s conservative credentials and high likeability would seem to make him the perfect fit should the region want to send one of its own to Montgomery.

Tony Kennon at 53:1 – Kennon has become quite a political force along the Gulf Coast, and much of his work is done by force of personality. One gets the sense that his service as mayor of Orange Beach is not his last elective office.

Brandon Shoupe at 55:1 – Shoupe is a Republican through and through. He won the race for chairman of the Houston County Commission in 2022, so it’s probably a bit premature to be thinking of his prospects in a governor’s race. But it’s coming. Shoupe is the Republican Party’s next political star from the Wiregrass.

Dale Strong at 57:1 – This is not the first time Strong has been on a Yellowhammer News list, and it will not be the last time, either. Eight years from now – or even just four years from now – the likelihood of him running for governor will be much higher. After winning Alabama’s 5th Congressional District seat in 2022, look for Strong to make waves in Washington for a few years before reassessing his statewide prospects. His mode of operation is usually giving three options: work with him, get out of the way or get run over. He’ll be fun to watch in Congress.

Jason Reeves at 65:1 – If one were searching for a candidate to pull a surprise in a high-profile race, they might land on Reeves, the mayor of Troy. He is an outsider with a record of economic development success and down-home values. It just might work.

Long shots to run

Matt Fridy at 85:1 – Modern Alabama politics has not seen too many judges make the leap to the governor’s office. Fridy is a little different, though. A long-time Republican party activist in Shelby County, he served in the Alabama Legislature before his current tenure on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. With an unimpeachable conservative record and excellent political skills, keep an eye on Fridy.

John Merrill at 100:1 – Merrill will be entering the private sector within days. Don’t think for a second he will not continue moving about in Alabama political circles. We can’t help but think he makes a move back toward public office, and he has never been afraid to dream big.

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