Johnson won’t say if he’ll seek governor’s post

Published 2:32 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2009

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — State Treasurer Kay Ivey’s entry into the Republican race for governor leaves Bill Johnson, one of Gov. Bob Riley’s Cabinet members, as the last major potential GOP contender who hasn’t said whether he’ll run.

Johnson, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, said he is getting lots of encouragement to run but hasn’t made a decision.

Ivey has scheduled announcements across the state on Wednesday to kick off her campaign, said her communications director, Mark Powell.

Email newsletter signup

Ivey will join four Republicans who have already announced for the June 2010 primary election: Greenville businessman Tim James, former Chief Justice Roy Moore, former two-year college Chancellor Bradley Byrne, and state Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa.

Riley, Johnson’s boss, has served two terms and is prohibited by state law from running again in 2010.

Johnson said he has not set a deadline for deciding.

“My wife and I are still praying about it,” he said in an interview Monday.

One of those urging Johnson to run is Paul Nelson, president of the South Bay Communities Alliance in Mobile County.

Nelson’s organization formed after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. Nelson said he had never met Johnson before the hurricane, but has been impressed with Johnson’s compassion and ability to find different approaches to help people who had badly damaged homes but missed out on an initial round of aid.

Nelson said Johnson had also worked hard in recent months to make sure low-income citizens know that his agency has federal stimulus money available to make their homes more energy efficient.

“I see this as a kind of leadership Alabama needs right now,” Nelson said Tuesday.

As ADECA’s director, Johnson is responsible for distributing state and federal funds in every Alabama county. That puts him in contact with community leaders like Nelson.

Johnson acknowledges that such connections could provide the basis for a grass-roots network of campaign supporters.

“I have made a lot of friends across the state,” he said.

Johnson made an unsuccessful bid as a Libertarian for the U.S. Senate in Missouri in 1994, getting nearly 5 percent of the vote in a race won by Republican John Ashcroft. In 1997, he was elected to the Birmingham City Council for one four-year term. He served as the grass-roots coordinator for Riley’s campaigns for governor in 2002 and 2006. He joined ADECA in 2003 as assistant director, and Riley named him director in 2005.

His wife, Kathy Johnson, heads the Alabama Broadband Initiative, which Riley created to help make Internet broadband service available statewide.

On the Democratic side of the governor’s race, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis and state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks have announced. Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb has said she is considering the race.