By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who made a name for himself by being a harsh critic of former Governor Robert Bentley, has confirmed an exploratory campaign for Governor. Zeigler, who has served as State Auditor since 2015, will make a final decision later as he assesses a possible run in the 2018 cycle.
Zeigler’s office confirmed the existence of an official Facebook page for his exploratory campaign. The announcement this week is not the first hint that Zeigler would run for Governor.
In March, the outspoken State Auditor released a new book, “The Making of the People’s Governor 2018,” a fictional look-ahead to the 2018 Gubernatorial race, in which he predicts the people of Alabama will want change “from the self-serving, money-wasting Montgomery insiders to a voice for Alabama taxpayers.”
“One candidate had stood up in the Bentley years and, in 2018, stood out from the rest,” Zeigler wrote in the book.
Much like his book predicts, Zeigler says his campaign will focus on stopping “wasteful spending, mismangement and corruption in State government.”
“I have already done more to change Montgomery than any of the other potential candidates, even from my position as State auditor,” Zeigler said. “From the Governor’s office, I would stand up for the taxpayers and stop business as usual in Montgomery.”
If Zeigler decides to enter the race, he will be joining what already looks to be a crowded field with several Republicans and Democrats, including Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb.
Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, a longtime Alabama politics heavyweight, is still deciding but said he won’t run if Gov. Kay Ivey, the incumbent, chooses to run for re-election.
She has not made a final decision.
Zeigler, who brands himself as a fiscal conservative, has often been at odds with his own party in Montgomery, opting to expand the normal role of the State auditor into a waste- and corruption-fighting unit — often to the disdain of colleagues who have said he is overreaching.
The State Auditor generally monitors and inventories State property, but Zeigler has filed numerous lawsuits against both the State and the former Governor. More than a year ago, Zeigler filed the ethics complaint against Bentley that eventually led to his resignation after the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Bentley had committed a felony in carrying out and covering up an affair with his former top political aide, Rebekah Mason. Before that, Zeigler fought with Bentley over the former Governor’s efforts to use nearly $2 million from a settlement with BP Oil over the 2011 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to renovate the Governor’s beach mansion.
The State Auditor has also filed numerous lawsuits against the State — one over Bentley’s Senate Special Election timeline and another still pending over a software contract, which Zeigler says is illegal and was awarded without going through the proper bidding process.
Zeigler got what he wanted with the Special Election after Ivey announced she would move the election up to 2017. A court trial over the STAARS contract will likely be set for the fall.
Zeigler said he will make a final decision on a Gubernatorial run later this year, most likely after the Special Election which is now set for December. If he doesn’t run for Governor, he will likely run for re-election as State Auditor.