By MARY SELL, CAROLINE BECK and Todd Stacy, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Term-limited State Auditor Jim Zeigler is forming an “exploratory committee” to “test the water” as a possible GOP challenger to Gov. Kay Ivey next year.
Zeigler has been Ivey’s chief critic over the last four years, opposing several of her proposals, including plans for a new I-10 bridge over the Mobile Bay, the plan to lease three new, large prisons and a constitutional amendment to replace the elected state school board with an appointed commission.
He touted himself as the “common sense” candidate, according to a press release today.
“If I could keep the campaign about common sense and not about the millions of dollars and cents raised for Gov. Ivey by the Montgomery Insiders, I could win,” he said.
Ivey earlier this month announced her reelection plans citing her record over the last four years that includes the state’s emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Alabama is working again, and the best is yet to come,” the governor said in a campaign announcement video.
Ivey’s popularity and plans to run again have kept other potential candidates out of the race. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth announced earlier this year that he would not challenge Ivey and instead run for reelection. The two campaigned together at Ainsworth’s campaign kickoff in Guntersville.
While an exploratory committee is a real, legal entity in federal elections allowing candidates to spend money and other resources testing the waters without formally declaring, that’s not the case in Alabama. Secretary of State John Merrill told Alabama Daily News that anyone is free to form a committee, or kitchen cabinet, of friends to explore running for office, but campaign finance law kicks in when they raise or spend $1,000. That’s when a person becomes a candidate and must begin filing financial statements for a formal campaign committee.
“When a $1,000 is raised or spent, for the purpose of declaring a candidacy or determining whether or not there is actually a candidacy that’s worth pursuing, then that individual becomes a candidate whether they choose to or not,” Merrill said.
Merrill also said exploratory committees are typically only used for individuals looking to run for state-wide offices like high-offices of governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general.
Zeigler has until Jan. 28 to make a decision – that’s the ALGOP filing deadline – but said he hopes to decide before the state Republican meeting on Aug. 26.
The Republican primary is May 24, 2022.
Zeigler’s wife, Jackie Zeigler, is a current state school board member. Last week, Jim Zeigler said she is considering a run for his current job, auditor.