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Lew who?

Lew Burdette, who for the last 19 years has served as President of the King’s Home, a Christian non-profit serving women, children and families in need, will formally announce that he is entering the race for Governor of Alabama.

The announcement will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the King’s Home in Chelsea.

The 62-year-old Burdette doesn’t mind that you may not know who he is right now.

“I guess I’m so far under the radar no one is paying attention yet,’’ Burdette said. “That will change.”

Burdette will qualify to run as a Republican, but says, “I could care less about party affiliation. All that does is divide us. I’m a true Conservative, with a Biblical world view and that’s how I will lead this state.

“I can’t change who I am. But what I can do is be a respecter of every person in this state. Doesn’t matter if we don’t make the same life choices, whether we have different outlooks. We’re not going to agree on every issue or policy. That doesn’t matter. I am for all Alabamians regardless. That’s just who I am. I’d rather not qualify as one party or the other but I am Conservative. … I will qualify as a Republican and I’m proud to do that, but it does disappoint me that we’ve become so divided. You won’t hear a divisive message from me.”

Burdette grew up in Roanoke and has enjoyed a 13-year career with Books-A-Million, his last position being Chief Operating Officer. He left there to found Kindred, a Christian retail store in Birmingham and Nashville, but those stores closed down after the attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

In October 2002, Burdette joined the King’s Home. He says he is taking a leave of absence with the blessing of the Board of Directors to run for Governor.

However, most people may be familiar with Burdette’s story of when, as a 15-year-old in Roanoke, he was kidnapped while leaving his father’s grocery store, thrown into a well, pelted with rocks, shot in the head and left for dead. He eventually climbed his way out of the well and made it to a nearby house, only to find it was the home of the grandmother of one of the men who attacked him. Fortunately, the grandmother called for help and Burdette was able to survive that ordeal.

“What happened to me as a 15-year-old is an important part of my story and developed me into the person I am today,’’ Burdette said. “I’ve shared that story all over the state, and it’s a story that taught me not to give up.

“And what a great story for Alabama. I didn’t give up, and I’m not giving up on Alabama or on change for this state. I know a firestorm is coming and yet what I went through as a 15-year-old teenager has toughened my skin to be relentless for Alabama.”

His message is that the people who have been in charge haven’t done much to improve Alabama, so it’s time to take a chance on an outsider.

“I so dearly love this state, and it breaks my heart that for the last 40-50 years we’ve been at the bottom of all the rankings,’’ Burdette said. “Pick one: education, prisons, whatever – we’re at the bottom. Nothing has changed. I’ve lived here my whole life. We have a great state with great people.

“People tell me, ‘We know what lifetime politicians have gotten us and we’re still at the bottom.' I will be an agent for change, a disrupter. I don’t owe anybody anything. We can move this state forward.”

That idea of not owing anybody is a key part of Burdette’s message.

“We are one of five states that [allow] unlimited campaign contributions (to state elections),’’ Burdette said.  “That buys favors and needs to change. The other states have limits ranging from a few thousand dollars (per candidate, per election) to $25 or $30 thousand. I picked a middle number and am limiting campaign contributions to $10,000. It’s just a number, but I think everybody else should do that as well.”

According to the National Conference of State legislatures, Alabama is one of seven states with completely unlimited contribution amounts to state offices. In states with limits, the limits vary depending on the office. For governor, the limits range from $500 per year in Alaska to $44,000 per general election in New York.

“What people tell me is that they are so hungry for fresh, strong, common-sense leadership,” Burdette said. “People say, ‘I’ll take my chances on someone not involved in politics because they’ll try to do the right thing.’ Especially someone like me – unknown, doesn’t owe anyone any favors.

“And you won’t hear me talking [negatively] about anybody running in this race. You won’t hear a divisive message from me. What I want to talk about is, ‘I’m all for Alabama’ and not against someone else. That resonates everywhere I go across the state.”

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