Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler on Saturday brought his exploratory campaign for governor to the Mid-Alabama Republican Club in Vestavia Hills. Zeigler explained to the crowd why he is contemplating challenging incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey in next year’s Republican primary.
“Gov. Kay Ivey needs to be primaried,” Zeigler said. “The state of Alabama needs a challenger who stands up for the people of Alabama not the Montgomery insiders.”
“When Kay Ivey was elevated to Governor and ran for her own term as Governor, she did not run on a platform of raising your gas taxes by 15 cents a gallon. It was not in her platform,” he said.
Zeigler said that he was still exploring running for governor, “But I am exploring pretty hard.”
Zeigler said that not only was the gas tax bad but so was the underhanded way they did it.
“They took the open seats for the legislature and closely examined those candidates,” Zeigler said. “They did the Spanish Inquisition on those candidates. If they supported raising the gas tax they got the money. If they didn’t then they got no support.”
“This is no way to run a railroad or a state,” Zeigler said.
Zeigler praised State Reps. David Wheeler, R-Vestavia, (who was in attendance) and Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia, for not giving in to the pressure.
“He did what his district wanted him to do,” Zeigler said of Wheeler. “Your member Jim Carns did the same thing.”
Zeigler said that he put together a taxpayers’ group to prepare an alternative to the tax increase. Plan Z – which stood for Zero tax increase — was the result.
“We identified enough funds already coming in to Montgomery,” Zeigler said. “We found $63 million a year that was being siphoned out of the gas tax money away from roads and bridges to other projects. It was being used as a supplement to the general fund.”
Zeigler promised to do a “management audit of ALDOT” – the Alabama Department of Transportation – if he is elected governor. “ALDOT is excellent at starting new projects, but they are terrible at finishing projects.”
Zeigler cited the long-delayed project on Lurleen Wallace Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, which has been underway for over three years.
“That is just one such example there are dozens more,” Zeigler claimed. “ALDOT in their wisdom has blocked the major beach route Hwy 331. They say that this was unavoidable, but they could have built the new bridge parallel to the old bridge.”
Zeigler criticized ALDOT and the Ivey administration for their attempt to put a toll road on I-10.
“I had no idea that a state can impose a toll on an interstate highway,” Zeigler said. “That was a terribly flawed plan.”
Zeigler said that ALDOT was going to “give an outside outfit a 50-year lease to operate a bridge.”
“After nobody else stood up against it I decided to,” Zeigler said. “This is a pattern in Montgomery.”
“I started a Facebook group to oppose the toll bridge with one member, me, and we got over 50,000 members,” Zeigler said. “We figured out how to legally block the toll plan. There is something called a metropolitan planning organization or MPO and they are required to prepare a TIP or Transportation Infrastructure Plan. If a project is not on the Transportation Infrastructure Plan it can’t receive federal funds. We got an 8 to 1 vote. The one vote we didn’t get was from an ALDOT designated member who apparently valued his job more than the will of the people.”
“They could do that all over the state,” Zeigler said of ALDOT and toll bridges if Ivey is elected to a second term.
“You already are paying for roads and bridges through your fuel taxes,” Zeigler said. “I think that is really double taxation. The way to stop that is to elect Jim Zeigler for governor.”
“Amendment One would have taken away your right to vote for your state board of education,” Zeigler said. “It was a plan of the Montgomery insiders, by the Montgomery insiders, and for the Montgomery insiders.”
Zeigler said that when nobody would step up to oppose that constitutional amendment so he and his wife stepped up to do it.
“75 percent of the people wanted to keep our right to vote for our state school board members,” Zeigler said. “That is my base right there, if we can get the money to get the message out to them. 75 percent of the people of Alabama think like you do.”
Zeigler also blasted Ivey’s failed plan to do lease-build agreements with private consortiums for new megaprisons.
“It was an irresponsible plan,” Zeigler said. “The taxpayers would have paid over $100 million a year for thirty years.”
“Three groups of outsiders, there are some insiders, but mostly outsiders would have been paid over $100 million a year for 30 years,” Zeigler said. “At the end of $3 billion and 30 years we would have owned nothing.”
“This building plans did not actually address the problems in the prison systems,” Zeigler said accusing the Ivey administration of trying “to build there way out of” a pending federal lawsuit.
“It would have looked real nice but it wouldn’t have done anything” to make the prisons safer, prevent inmate suicides, improve the pathetic technical educations offered, or provide mental health services, Zeigler claimed.
Zeigler said that his opposition group found out the names of the companies who would, “build these three six flags over prisons,” and put public pressure on them. “They all pulled out and the prison plan flopped as it should.”
“We need recall in Alabama,” Zeigler said. “I left the legislature out of this because they have to pass this thing. The main thing is gubernatorial. There would have been a recall petition against Robert Bentley. I filed the initial ethics complaint. With recall we could have removed him a year and a half earlier than we did. I think after Gov. Ivey rammed through her gas tax plan there would have been a recall petition started. How far it would have gone I don’t know.”
Zeigler promised to write plans for all of the problems facing Alabama that he will release in the coming weeks.
“For each area of concern I am going to draw up a plan and I will make a major speech to announce a new plan,” Zeigler promised.
Zeigler said that the criticism he receives from critics is that: “He is always against things; but he can’t come up with anything to replace it. I am going to put that one to bed.”
Zeigler said that the main problem he has is raising money.
“It is trickling in; but we need more than that. We won’t need the $3 or $4 million that the Governor can raise. She reported $1.2 million. She got one donation of $250,000 from one businessman from Tuscaloosa. I am still looking for that businessman to support my campaign. I would have fainted if he said $25,000.”
“If one of you can find a way to raise $500,000 let me know,” Zeigler said. “Its Kay Ivey and the Montgomery insiders versus Zeigler and the people of Alabama.”
Zeigler is term-limited from running for another term as state auditor.
In addition to Ivey and Zeigler, Lee County Pastor Dean Odle and former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George are running for governor in the Republican Primary.
The Republican Primary is May 24, 2022.
The Mid Alabama Republican Club meets on the second Saturday of each month at 9 am at the Vestavia Hills Public Library.
Club President County Commissioner Steve Ammons said that because the next meeting date falls on Sept. 11, they will not meet next month and instead encourage everyone to attend a Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony instead.
There is one at Mountain Brook City Hall at 8:30 a.m. and another at the Hoover Galleria Food Court at 9 a.m.