MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Former Books-A-Million executive Lew Burdette, who now runs a nonprofit that provides shelters and group homes for abused women and children, announced Tuesday that he is running for the governorship of Alabama against fellow Republican governor Kay Ivey.
Burdette joins a growing list of candidates challenging Ivey in the GOP primary in May. Burdette filed qualifying papers on Wednesday after making her announcement on Tuesday at the main campus of the non-profit King’s Home in Chelsea, outside Birmingham.
“I’m Alabama through and through. It’s just in my DNA, and it breaks my heart that when I left the University of Alabama 40 years ago, we were at the bottom of every category – in health care, prisons and education. And here we are 40 years later and we are in the same place. Nothing has changed, “Burdette said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Burdette, 62, spent 13 years at Books-A-Million – starting with a shopping mall chain called Bookland – and was executive vice president and chief operating officer.
He left the retail giant in 1998. In 2002, he became president of King’s Home, a Christian non-profit organization that operates 21 residential group homes. King’s Ranch serves neglected and abused children while Hannah Home serves women and children fleeing domestic violence.
“For the past 18 years, I have dedicated my heart and soul to fighting for abused youth, women, mothers and children fleeing domestic violence,” said Burdette. “I have seen countless lives transformed, given hope and opportunity, and our precious children deserve more than they receive in Alabama. They deserve to fight for.”
In his announcement video, Burdette recalls surviving a kidnapping when he was 15. He said he was kidnapped outside his father’s grocery store in Roanoke, shot, stabbed, thrown into a well and “left for dead”.
“I fought for my life at the bottom of this well and only survived by the grace of God,” Burdette said on the video.
Former Trump Ambassador Lindy Blanchard, businessman Tim James, former Morgan County Correctional Officer Stacy George and Opelika Pastor Dean Odle have also announced their candidacies against Ivey.
Burdette made her first candidacy for political office. Like other Ivey challengers, he has positioned himself as a political underdog and said he would be a “disruptor” to Montgomery.
“As a political foreigner, someone who has never been involved in politics, I owe no one any favors. No one has influence over me. I’m going to go, I’m going to be an agent. I’m going to be a disruptor because it’s the only way to move the state forward, “he said.
Asked what he would do with corrections and healthcare – two of the policy areas he mentioned – Burdette said he believes better training opportunities are needed for inmates so that they can have a “path to success” when released.
He said rural areas are struggling to access health care, noting that the hospital that treated him after the kidnapping has since closed.
When asked, Burdette did not say if he would support the expansion of Medicaid – what advocates argued would help small hospitals stay afloat financially. He said he saw the program’s benefits for the abused and neglected children they serve, but as a conservative he was wary of Washington printing money.