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James emphasizes differences from other candidates

Polling indicates the race to become Alabama’s next Republican nominee for governor remains close. But on Thursday night at the Butler County Republican Party’s political forum, Greenville’s Tim James appeared to be the top candidate for many.

Students brandished yellow and blue posters declaring Greenville as “Tim James Country,” and by Friday morning James’ campaign signs lined the lawns on Fort Dale Rd. Even fellow gubernatorial candidate Rep. Robert Bentley jokingly acknowledged James’ home field advantage.

“We want to thank Tim for letting us speak at his forum,” said Bentley in his opening remarks to the crowd.

James, the son of former governor Fob James, peppered his comments with reference to Greenville and Butler County, citing this county’s own high unemployment (16 percent) as indicative of a problem across Alabama.

“This race is about jobs and is about the economy,” he said. “We’ve got to get this economy back on track…that is our total focus. If I’m elected the next governor of Alabama there will be no rest till we get this thing turned back around.”

James ran for governor in 2002, but was defeated by Gov. Bob Riley in the primary. He said age has allowed him to appreciate that experience.

“This is a game of timing, and that was not my time,” he said. “You learn more lessons when you lose…when you win, you’re a genius. But I had to go through it.”

James started campaigning earlier this time, (he was the first Republican to announce his candidacy), and has poured $2 million of his own money into the race, according to finance reports, the largest amount of all candidates.

Still, some straw polls have James running either second or third to both Bradley Byrne and Judge Roy Moore in the Republican primary. And despite Thursday’s turnout in favor of James, there are still some even in Butler County who are unsure about which candidate to vote for.

The lone Republican on the Butler County Commission, Jerry Hartin (Dist. 4), attended the forum and said of all the candidates who spoke he liked Byrne.

“Tim is the local candidate and I will certainly give him consideration,” he said. “But I was very impressed with Bradley Byrne.”

But James said he feels most voters will begin to be more selective as June approaches, especially after examining the candidates’ respective backgrounds.

“I am very different from every person in this race…I have never held office, I’m a businessman,” he said. “I come from the private sector. This thing will breakdown along two lines: do you want lawyers or career politicians or do you want outsiders and businessmen to manage this state in the days ahead?”

Fob James has ties with several of the candidates, including Byrne and State Treasurer Kay Ivey, both who worked with him during his time in office. James was elected twice as governor, in both 1978 and 1995.

“It’s a great slate of candidates and the people have a wonderful choice,” he said. “It’s going to be a good primary.”

Fob James said he offers his son a “historical perspective” to running a campaign, but he said he’s content to stay on the sidelines and let Tim run his own race.

“I’m very proud of Tim and would do anything I can, obviously, to be helpful,” he said. “But when you’re my age and a parent, it’s good to be helpful and not get in the way too.”