Chapman eyes lieutenant governor

Published 7:14 pm Sunday, February 15, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Secretary of State Beth Chapman used to work at the lieutenant governor’s office. Come 2010, she may try to win the office.

“A lot of Republicans have encouraged me to look at lieutenant governor,” Chapman told The Associated Press.

The 46-year-old Republican said she will make a decision by June 1. If she doesn’t run for lieutenant governor, Chapman said she will campaign for a second term as secretary of state.

The current lieutenant governor, Democrat Jim Folsom Jr., is considering running for governor next year. So far, no candidate has announced for lieutenant governor, partly because politicians are waiting to see what Folsom does.

Chapman said some people encouraged her to look at the governor’s race, but now is not the time for that because she has two teenage boys at home in Shelby County.

“Because of my sons, I’ve probably been red-shirted,” she said.

Chapman defeated Democratic incumbent Nancy Worley in 2006 to win the secretary of state’s office. Before that, she spent four years as state auditor. Her service in state government goes back further, including being press secretary to Steve Windom in 2000-2001 when he was lieutenant governor and being appointments secretary for Republican Gov. Fob James in 1995-1996. She has also helped run several Republican campaigns.

William Stewart, former chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama, said Chapman “would make a formidable candidate” because of her experience in two statewide offices, her excellent speaking ability and her experience in organizing campaigns.

A lot of Republicans have been mentioned as possible candidates for governor, but the list of potential candidates for lieutenant governor is much shorter.

Birmingham attorney Luther Strange, who was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, said recently he is considering that office and others for 2010. Alabama House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard of Auburn says he’s been encouraged to consider it.

Campaigning for lieutenant governor would be Chapman’s most expensive race ever. Folsom spent nearly $2.4 million to win the office in 2006. Chapman’s race for secretary of state that year cost $378,784 — about one-sixth as much as Folsom’s.

Chapman said she’s not worried about entering a race that costs millions. She said she raised more for secretary of state than any candidate ever had. Plus, she has lots of experience raising money for other candidates and as the former state executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Alabama.

As secretary of state, Chapman has computerized the state’s system for filing business financial records and put more business and election information online.

She also helped oversee the general election Nov. 4 where 2.09 million Alabama voters went to the polls, breaking the old turnout record by about 200,000. Chapman said she is proud that the election came off without any major technical problems or allegations of fraud.

If elected lieutenant governor, Chapman would preside over a state Senate that is closely divided politically and often shut down by squabbling and personal differences.

She’s not ready to lay out a campaign platform for changing how the Senate operates, but, she said, “The bottom line is how do you solve total chaos? The answer is a little bit at a time, and you don’t give up.”