By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
Running for governor in Alabama is a full-contact sport, two-time candidate Tim James says, and he’s ready to play again.
James, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002 and 2010, filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office to run for a third time in 2022.
And it’s not just the sitting governor he wants to take on.
“The Republican leadership in Alabama are not Republicans as we know it,” James, son of former Gov. Fob James, said in an interview with Alabama Daily News. “The Republican leadership in large part are what we call RINOS (Republicans In Name Only) or Democrats disguised as Republicans.”
James told Alabama Daily News he plans to formally kickoff his campaign next month, but he’s already visiting parts of the state with some campaign help, including former Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead, and will be in the Shoals Tuesday and Wednesday.
He’s got a lot to say about recent actions by Republican leaders, including this year’s law allowing for the use of medical marijuana and efforts to expand gambling in the state. James criticized lawmakers for not doing enough earlier in 2021 to protect Alabama workers from vaccine requirements, including at hospitals. It wasn’t until President Joe Biden’s mandate that politicians in Alabama “jumped up and down,” he said.
Lawmakers approved legislation last month making it easier for Alabama workers to seek medical or religious exemptions to the federal vaccine requirement, but James said that didn’t go far enough to protect people who simply don’t want to get vaccinated. He said the state should go further, even at the risk of losing federal funding to institutions.
“Maybe we need to rethink our reliance on all this federal money because they are nothing more than a puppet master if the federal government can do that to us, do that to our citizens because we refuse to allow tyranny in our face.”
He wants a state law saying no one has to take a COVID-19 vaccine. Asked about federal consequences, he said, “Get it on.”
James said a primary motivation to enter the race is “the constant barrage to turn this nation to something that it is not,” he said. “I think we are a Judeo-Christian nation.”
“… There is a cultural war brewing and good men and women must engage,” said James. In September, he held a press conference calling transgender acceptance, critical race theory and yoga in gym class part of a “beast with three heads” threatening the state.
Now he is accusing current state leaders of turning Alabama into Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, and Nevada, where casino gambling is prevalent. He called the 2021 medical marijuana law “a vehicle to sell marijuana in Alabama.”
The law allows people with certain medical conditions access to limited forms of medical marijuana, including pills and skin patches. It specifically forbids the use of recreational marijuana.
Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, sponsored a medical marijuana bill for three consecutive years until it was passed in the spring.
“It’s easy to say something’s not needed when you don’t have someone in your family who does need it,” Melson told ADN.
James also said Republicans shouldn’t be pushing for expanded gambling options in the state. Lawmakers earlier this year considered but did not pass legislation that would have instituted a lottery, legalized sports betting and codified casino gambling, with tax revenues going to pay for education, health care and expanded broadband internet.
“I’m not for gambling at all,” he said.
Asked to respond to James’ candidacy and accusations, Gov. Kay Ivey campaign manager Will Califf referred to a press release the campaign sent Friday touting her new television advertisement that ran during the SEC championship game.
“Governor Ivey is a conservative fighter who has always stood up for Alabama values. While the rest of the world seems to be going crazy, Alabama has it right, and with Kay Ivey leading the way, we’ll keep it like that,” Califf said in a statement.
So far, Ivey has raised about $3 million for her reelection bid. James said he doesn’t expect to compete with Ivey financially. He said he’s focused on a grassroots-effort.
“There’s about 600,000-some votes in a Republican primary,” James said. “We only need 300,000 plus a few,” he said.
The 2020 GOP primary saw 724,222 voters.
James said he’s learned from his previous bids for governor. In 2002, he came up short to then Lt. Gov. Steve Windom and former Gov. Bob Riley. In 2010, he missed the runoff by 166 votes, coming in third to Bradley Byrne and Robert Bentley.
Qualifying for 2022 ends Jan. 28. The primary is May 24.
Current Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler is considering a run. Former Ambassador Lynda Blanchard, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, is considering switching races to also run for governor. Others who have filed campaign finance paperwork with the Alabama Secretary of State are: Robert Burdette, Stacy George and Dean Odle.
A Cygnal poll commissioned by Alabama Daily News in August showed Ivey leading a hypothetical ballot of Republican challengers for governor, including James, but with more than a third of GOP voters undecided about their choice.
If the Republican primary election for Governor were held today, and you had to make a choice, who would you vote for?