BY PHILLIP RAWLS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Robert Bentley announced Tuesday that he will seek a second term next year, putting to rest any speculation about whether the 70-year-old Republican wants to keep leading the state.
Bentley, a Republican elected in 2010 on a jobs creation platform, said he's proud of the progress the state has made in the last two years and that he looks forward to continuing that in a second term.
Republican Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey said she was glad Bentley removed any uncertainty about his plans, and she intends to support him. She said she isn't ready to announce her own plans, but "I certainly like being lieutenant governor."
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said he has no plans to run against Bentley. "He's done a really good job as governor," Hubbard said.
Former junior college chancellor Bradley Byrne, who finished second to Bentley in the 2010 Republican runoff, said he hasn't decided what he will do in 2014. Greenville businessman Tim James, who finished a close third in the GOP primary, said he's not running as of now. "But you never say never in politics," he said.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he and other Republicans have had a good working relationship with Bentley. "He could very well see himself without any opposition in a Republican primary," Marsh said.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said Bentley won over Alabama voters with his handling of the April 2011 tornadoes that killed about 250 people, and his polling numbers have remained high since then. "As long as the polls show his numbers where they have been, it's unlikely that he will have a serious challenger," Armistead said.
Bentley is the first candidate of either party to announce for governor, although House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, has said he is considering running on the Democratic side.
Bentley entered the Republican primary in 2010 as a little-known physician and state representative from Tuscaloosa. His folksy style, including a promise to work without pay until unemployment drops to 5.2 percent, helped him win the Republican primary and then beat Democrat Ron Sparks in the general election.
Bentley is still not drawing a salary. But in his campaign announcement Tuesday, Bentley noted that Alabama's unemployment was 9.3 percent when he took office in January 2011 and is now 7.3 percent. "I look forward to continuing that progress in a second term," he said.
Bentley also cited his $613 million road construction program, which is the largest in state history, and noted that he's three-fourths of the way toward achieving his goal of $1 billion in state government savings in this term.
Angi Stalnaker, who managed Bentley's 2010 campaign, said Tuesday she is back on board as a campaign consultant.
The Republican primary is June 4, 2014.
Associated Press writer Bob Johnson contributed to this report.