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New member profile: Rep. James Lomax

BY SAYLOR CUZZORT, Alabama Daily News

Rep. James Lomax is among three newly elected representatives serving in the Madison County delegation. 

Lomax was elected to Alabama House Seat 20 in the southwest Huntsville area, previously held by long-time Rep. Howard Sanderford, who chose not to run for reelection in 2022. Lomax, alongside newly elected Rep. David Cole and Rep. Phillip Rigsby, occupy three of Madison County’s eight house seats.

“We have a legacy to live up to, but I think all three of us are going to jump in headfirst,” Lomax told Alabama Daily News. “It’s a really collaborative group of folks. It’s people who understand Huntsville is on the cutting edge and we have things we need to accomplish but can also look at the bigger picture of what the state needs to get done.” 

Lomax faced three Republican opponents during the primary and claimed victory over Frances Taylor with 63.2 percent of the total vote in the June runoff. 

Sanderford, who served 33 years in the House, said Lomax is “a smart guy with a good future ahead of him.” 

“I feel very comfortable passing the baton to him,” Sanderford told Alabama Daily News recently. “I think he’s a smart guy, a reasonable guy, who will listen to the people.” 

Lomax is the vice president at Corporate Office Properties Trust. Since the beginning of his career, he has been responsible for developing more than 1 million square feet of commercial space in north Alabama— experience he says will be instrumental in his new role. 

“I work in that business where it’s a lot of deal-making — that seems like it’d parlay very well into what happens in Montgomery,” Lomax said. “There’s a lot of deals that are cut.”

As a lifelong Madison County resident, Lomax campaigned for a strong economy, a safe district and smart schools to combat what he called “growing pains” in the district. Being one of the state’s fastest-growing counties, Lomax says the area must continue to attract and retain talent. 

Lomax has been assigned to the Constitution, Campaigns and Elections, Ethics and Campaign Finance and Ports, Waterways and Intermodal Transit committees.

Although he has not pre-filed any legislation, Lomax has high expectations for the regular session of the Alabama Legislature that starts in March.

“I’m going to do a lot of listening and a little less talking,” Lomax said. “Then, hopefully, I’ll be able to find out who my people are, build alliances and try to work with folks within my caucus to get some things done.”

Q & A with Rep. James Lomax

Q: Why did you choose this seat as your next run for elected office?

“I have been around politics for a long time. I am 31 now, but when I was 18, I ran for Huntsville City Council. I was the youngest candidate to ever run in the city of Huntsville, and then, shortly after that, I lost, so I was the youngest loser to run but learned a lot. I kind of got bit by that political bug and got interested in it, and I stuck around. My professional career has been in Huntsville. In the business that I do in commercial real estate, I get to see how public stuff in the state interacts with business. I knew that I wanted to get involved, and Howard Sanderford, long-time representative who has done a lot of good for our state and in my Rotary Club, came to me and let me know that he’d be retiring at the end of his term. So that’s when I brought it up to my employer. I brought it up to my wife, and we prayed about it and decided to just jump all the way in.”

Q: You ran for an open seat but had a four-person GOP primary that went to a runoff. What was your message to voters to get them to pick you? 

“It was a challenge, for sure. And what I represent and try to get through is that I’m a hard worker. I’ve gone from bagging groceries at Publix 12 years ago to being a vice president of a publicly traded company now. I don’t say that to be braggadocious. I say that because I work hard and I put myself in an environment where I can succeed. Huntsville is one of those environments, and I want Huntsville to continue to be a great place to live, to work, to play and go try to make the state of Alabama better for future generations. 

I have young children. I have a 10-month-old daughter. So I feel like I’m closer to a lot of the people in the state because I’m living the future right now. You know, I want to build a better state for her and for my family. So that was kind of the message.”

Q: Madison County’s House delegation is eight members. Three of you are new this term. Have you gotten a chance to talk about shared priorities with the new and veteran House members?

“I haven’t been there very long, but I feel like we have a group that works very well together — all of them, whether it be Rex Reynolds or Anthony Daniels. I was able to pick up the phone and ask questions, even during the campaign and after the period that I had been nominated and waiting for the general election…”

Q: What is your plan to combat the loss of seniority in these new seats? 

“… The good thing is we all have great predecessors, and we can look to and ask questions, too. Representative Howard Sanderford had been there for about 32 years, Representative Mike Ball had been in there since 2002 and Mac McCutcheon is a former Speaker of the House, so we have a legacy to live up to. The good news is we can pull on them for advice and counsel. And then we’ll also just work with the veteran members of our delegation. And that goes a lot into trying to make sure that we get on the right committees, on committees that complement each other and that we can be a good advocate for our area.”

Q: Your background is in commercial real estate in a county booming with new employers; how might that experience help you in the State House?

“… For some of these large projects here in Huntsville, I’ve gotten to see the way the economic incentive packages are oriented and how they’re used and utilized. I was at the Alabama Daily News update the other day when Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, who has been an incredible leader in our state, was speaking of the value of economic incentives in our state and how we’re staying competitive to make sure that we bring in new jobs for the next generation. That’s one of the things I get to see on a daily basis: what it takes to get the deal cut, what it takes to get the business to locate here, and then once they’re here, how do you keep them here. That’s something that’s going to be important because if Alabama continues to create jobs, we will continue to attract and retain talent and the people that we want to live here.”

Q: During your campaign, you talked about the growing pains in your district. As a Madison County native, what are those growing pains, exactly? 

“It’s really infrastructure, but that can be a vague word to a lot of people. It’s not just roads and bridges, which we do have our fair share of roads and bridges and areas that need to be taken care of. But it’s making sure we keep up on the education side. We have to make sure we are funding our schools and that we’re keeping our teachers. If the classroom sizes get too large, you run into a situation where all of a sudden, it’s not just bad for the students but also bad for the teacher. They’re at that point being under-compensated because they have to deal with more students on a day-to-day basis. It’s little things that people don’t normally think of. But growth is a multiplier — it creates more tax revenue for the municipality in the state, but at the same time, it puts more pressure on the municipalities in the state. We just have to be careful and have a firm balancing act.”

Q: What’s the most significant issue you see in your district, and how could the Legislature help? 

“You know, I’ve already had quite a few constituent calls. I feel like education is of great importance right now and just the future of our state and that one has been highly politicized, I would say. But, if we just had to peel back the layers and look at it, absolutely. The roads and bridges are the things we need to take care of as we continue to gain new jobs.”

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