Former Trump ambassador to run against Alabama governor

FILE - Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks to supporters at her watch party after winning the Republican nomination for governor of Alabama at the Renaissance Hotel in Montgomery, Ala., on June 5, 2018. Ivey, who is seeking her second full term in office in next years 2022 Republican primary, is being challenged by Lynda Blanchard, who was Trumps ambassador to Slovenia, and toll road developer Tim James, the son of former Alabama Gov. Fob James. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File) (Butch Dill, Associated Press)

WETUMPKA, Ala. – An Alabama businesswoman who served as former President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Slovenia on Tuesday became the third Republican candidate to announce a run against Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in the gubernatorial primary next year.

Formally declaring her intention to leave the U.S. Senate race and make a bid for governor, Lynda Blanchard, who goes by Lindy Blanchard, said she was running because “people made it unmistakably clear to me that they wanted a conservative outsider, not just in (Washington) D.C. but ... here in Montgomery, a leader who will run our state boldly; someone who is there to put the interest of the people first.”

The Associated Press reported on Monday that it appeared very likely Blanchard would run based on an invitation to the campaign event that Blanchard posted on Twitter. The candidate refused to comment on the report.

Blanchard and her husband, John Blanchard, co-founded B&M Management, a commercial real estate company that has apartment complexes throughout the South. Both have long been significant financial supporters of Republican candidates. According to Federal Election Commission reports, she contributed more than $400,000 to the Trump Victory Fund in 2018 and 2019.

Her announcement speech was light on policy specifics but stressed her diplomatic experience and became deeply personal at times as Blanchard, a mother to eight including several adopted children, described losing her son to suicide after his struggles with opioid addiction and the loss of an adopted daughter to liver disease.

She said she has also “lived every aspect” of school choice since her children attended a mixture of public, private and home school education.

While now a wealthy business owner, Blanchard described herself as having more modest roots. She said she lived in a trailer park owned by her grandfather, worked as a waitress before being able to go to college at 28 and earn a mathematics degree.

“I will stand up for our rights against not just the liberal left, but the go-along-to-get-along so-called conservatives who have run things too long in Montgomery,” she said.

Asked Tuesday about Blanchard’s entry into the race, Ivey remarked, “Who is she? I don’t know her. I’m running strong on my record and work hard to get my message out. I don’t think many people have heard of Lynda Blanchard. I certainly have not.”

Taking on a well-funded incumbent is typically an uphill battle in a primary. Blanchard is expected to lean into her ties to Trump, who remains popular among state Republicans.

It is unclear if Trump will weigh in on the Alabama race, however, as he did in Georgia’s on Monday when he announced that he was backing former U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in that state’s GOP primary next year. Trump encouraged Perdue to run after lashing out at Kemp, claiming he did not do enough to overturn Democratic President Joe Biden’s electoral victory in Georgia.

Asked if she had asked for Trump’s endorsement, Blanchard replied that,” certainly that endorsement would be amazing.” She added that “every candidate, I believe, would ask for it.”

Trump told Newsmax on Monday that he is looking at races but did not mention any candidate by name.

“I’ll probably endorse people, various people at Alabama,” Trump said, noting he has already endorsed U.S. Mo Brooks in the U.S. Senate race.

Toll road developer Tim James and former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy George have also announced their candidacies against Ivey.