Businessman Tim James, who came in a very close third during the 2010 Republican primary, confirmed Wednesday that he was thinking about waging an intra-party campaign against Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and would decide by the end of the year. James is the son of former Gov. Fob James, who was elected governor as a Democrat in 1978 and as a Republican in 1994 but badly lost re-election four years later.
Ivey infuriated the GOP's anti-vaxx base in July when she said it was "time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks" for the resurgent pandemic, but the younger James himself didn't say this week why he believed the governor should be fired. Instead, he declared war on the "beast with three heads," which he said were critical race theory, transgender rights, and yoga in public schools. Ivey's team responded to James' speech by saying, "We appreciate his unwavering commitment to the important fight on yoga. As for Gov. Ivey, she doesn't do any yoga."
Republicans across the nation routinely demonize transgender people and the idea of critical race theory, but James' attack on yoga is much more unusual. The only notable Republican we'd heard torch the exercise before now was E.W. Jackson, the 2013 nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia who once suggested it leads to Satan, but James isn't the only Alabama conservative up in arms about it.
In May, Ivey signed a bill that removed a nearly three-decade ban on yoga in public schools, though it still required English names for any positions. Additionally, the law's language said, "Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, and namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited."
The Montgomery Advertiser's Brian Lyman tweeted in the spring that the bill "close[d] the book on one of the stupidest moral panics in Alabama history, which is really saying a lot," but as James' speech demonstrates, not everyone is done panicking. The Eagle Forum of Alabama alleged that yoga wasn't an exercise but was instead done as "an offering of worship" to Hindu deities. The Universal Society of Hinduism pushed back, saying that many yoga instructors aren't Hindus and that "traditionally Hinduism was not into proselytizing."
James, for his part, badly lost the 2002 primary for governor, but his second bid for the GOP nod eight years later went far better. The candidate generated national attention when he said in an ad, "This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it." James ended up finishing 166 votes behind state Rep. Robert Bentley for the important second-place spot in the runoff, and that tiny loss proved to have enormous consequences. Bentley went on to win the nomination and the general election, and the sex scandal that led to his 2017 resignation elevated Ivey to the governor's office.
Ivey already faces a potential primary challenge from state Auditor Jim Ziegler, who formed an exploratory committee in June. Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard also hasn't ruled out switching from the Senate race to the gubernatorial contest. Alabama requires primary candidates to win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a runoff.