By Ray Melick, Editor in Chief
Saying “the third time is the charm,’’ Greenville businessman Tim James filed his paperwork with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office Friday, officially becoming a candidate for governor of Alabama.
“As recently as a year ago, I thought I was done with politics for good,’’ James said. “The doors have been swinging open the last six months and I can sense this is the right time.
“I expect the third time to be the charm.”
James, the 59-year-old son of former Alabama Gov. Fob James, ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002 and in 2010. He has been expected to make this announcement for some time, since an event he held on the steps of the state capitol in September.
James will be challenging incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey, who was elevated to governor in 2017 when Gov. Robert Bentley (R) resigned. She was elected to her current term in 2018.
Ivey is, according to recent polls, one of the most popular governors in the country with an approval rating between 62% and 67% (depending on the poll), highest among governors in the Southeast.
“In this race, I take no pleasure in running against Gov. Ivey,’’ James said. “She has been a friend of the family for years. My dad gave her her first cabinet position (in 1979). So this is not something I look forward to. I have no personal issues with Gov. Ivey.
“But I do have issues with her performance and what has happened and it’s under this administration that they have passed a giant gas tax, public education [rankings] has fallen to dead last, we made a run to become a gambling mecca with a proposed nine casinos, they authorized a syndicated drug cartel with medical marijuana, and the list goes on and on. I think the system and structure has overwhelmed this governor and the administration has lost control of it.
“Whether she believes these things should have happened, I don’t know. But they have happened. And I intend to bring down the structures that have taken hold of Montgomery and reverse this, and the only way to do that is [to] be governor of Alabama.”
Others who have announced their candidacy for governor include Ivey, Lee County Pastor Dean Odle, and former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George, who ran for governor unsuccessfully in 2014.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler is also campaigning for governor, but has not formally announced whether he will enter the race. U.S. Senate candidate and former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard has acknowledged that many people have asked her to switch from the Senate to the governor's race.
Friday’s filing allows James to officially begin raising support for the campaign. He said the official kickoff to the campaign will not take place until January.
James ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 2002, losing to Bob Riley. In 2010, he lost in a Republican primary against eventual winner Robert Bentley. Other candidates in the 2010 race included Bradley Byrne and Ivey, with Ivey dropping out of the race to run for lieutenant governor, a race she eventually won.
“I have asked myself why I should do this again, to be honest,’’ James said. “The fact that we’re talking about this – I’m more shocked than you can imagine. My family understands this arena too well.
“But I also sense this is a serious time, for obvious reasons. It’s not as it was before. … I sense the public has an unsettled spirit relative to what’s going on in education. I hear it everywhere I go. People with children in schools know we’re just not where we ought to be. I don’t have to look at data – I hear it, everywhere.”
James said this concern over education has led to an activism among women in the state.
“That’s one of the biggest signs of clarity for me, this unbelievable increase in women’s grassroots organizations rising up all over the state,” he said. “They are concerned mamas of all ages. Some call them ‘mama bears’ but I call them ‘Deborahs,’ after the warring Deborah in the Bible [in the book of Judges]. When I see soccer moms and grandmas out there, going to work on these issues, that tells you where the electorate really is.”
James said part of the problem is that good people go to Montgomery and the power and position changes them.
“There is no difference in Democrats and a wing of the Republican party,’’ he said. “It’s not that they are bad people, but sometimes it’s like there is no difference. You can’t push gambling, can’t push casinos, can’t pass medical marijuana like they did … the one thing that pushed me over the edge is that Alabama [ranks] dead last in the United States in education. A decade ago, when I ran for governor, we hovered between 42nd and 45th. That wasn’t great, but it wasn’t dead last. Mississippi and other states have left us behind.
“This campaign will be about a plan to deconstruct public education as we know it, run [for office] and get a full mandate from people and go to the legislature and ram this through. It will require statutory change and possibly some constitutional provisions that will need to be voted on by the people. But for once in my life, I believe it’s possible.”
James supports school choice, allowing parents to use vouchers to put their children in other public school systems that have room, or in charter schools, private schools, or home schools.
The Republican primary will be on May 24, 2022.