January 18, 2018

As Tommy Battle qualifies to run for governor, he says Alabama needs ‘direction’

January 18, 2018

In perhaps the most Alabama room in the state – three big-screen TVs: two showing President Trump, the other Paul Finebaum – Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle made it official.

He wants to be the new leader of Alabama.

At a festive event in his hometown of Hoover on Thursday afternoon, Battle signed qualifying papers to run for governor later this year.

His dad, Thomas, sat to his right, wife Eula to his left, and son Drew stood behind holding the mayor’s grandson, George.

“There’s a lot of us,” Battle’s father said later.

They included perhaps the most famous Battle of all – Tommy’s first cousin Bill, the former University of Alabama athletic director and founder of The Collegiate Licensing Company.

The party occurred at Famous Fred’s, a favorite family restaurant for the Battles while Tommy was growing up and in the heart of his childhood world – from graduating from the now-closed Berry High School to working after-school jobs along Montgomery Highway.

“This is where the roots were,” Battle said. “This is where we started off.”

Battle sat at the end of the table with a background of red “Battle for Governor” placards held by supporters.

After the swoosh of his signature, Battle looked at his wife and jokingly asked, “You OK with this, honey?”

In reality, the campaign has been rolling since Battle first announced his intentions last April.

But the delay in qualifying – as Battle was more than happy to relay – was because he was a bit preoccupied with his day job last week as Huntsville mayor when the qualifying window opened. Toyota-Mazda announced last week it would build a $1.6 billion plant in Huntsville and create 4,000 jobs.

“It’s more important to bring the jobs and bring investment in and then we’ll start the politics,” Battle said.

And then he subtly began with the politics.

“Today is the day we start moving forward,” Battle said. “Today is the day the state of Alabama starts moving forward. And that’s the most important thing.

“You can always steady a state or ship. But then you have to have a direction. And your direction has to be moving forward so the whole state moves forward as one, to take on our challenges and make them into opportunities and that we turn this state around and make it into the great state that it can be.”

Steadying the ship, or the state, has been a calling card issue for Gov. Kay Ivey – who ascended to the top seat last April following the resignation of scandal-plagued Robert Bentley as governor.

Battle and Ivey, both Republicans, are well ahead of a 12-candidate field when it comes to fundraising. Ivey has raised more than $2 million, Battle almost $1.2 million.

The Democratic and Republican primaries are June 5 and the general election is Nov. 6.

“Many people talk about it,” Battle said. “But we have a tried and true plan. It’s worked. It’s worked in the community that I came from in north Alabama. We started with a plan and a strategy 10 years ago and that same plan and strategy ended up bringing in 24,000 jobs, about $31/2 billion worth of investment.

“What if the people of Alabama would allow us to take that same plan and strategy and turn it into the state’s plan and strategy and do it on a bigger scale? And make sure every Congressional district had those 24,000 jobs come into it. What would that do for us? It would give us 154,000 jobs. It would give us about $21 billion worth of investment coming into the area. That is what we are looking for for the state of Alabama. And that’s what we’ll be working on.”

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