BY SAYLOR CUZZORT, Alabama Daily News
Assemblyman James Lomax is among three newly elected representatives serving on the Madison County delegation.
Lomax was elected number 20 in the Alabama House of Representatives in southwest Huntsville, previously held by longtime Congressman Howard Sanderford, who chose not to seek re-election in 2022. Lomax, along with newly elected Rep. David Cole and Rep. Phillip Rigsby, occupy three of Madison County’s eight House seats.
“We have a legacy that we have to live up to, but I think all three of us are going to jump in headfirst,” Lomax told the Alabama Daily News. “It’s a really collaborative group of people. It’s the people who understand that Huntsville is on the cutting edge and we need to get things done, but we can also look at the bigger picture of what the state needs to do.”
Lomax faced three Republican opponents during the primary and won the June runoff over Frances Taylor with 63.2 percent of the total vote.
Sanderford, who served in the House of Representatives for 33 years, said Lomax is “a smart guy with a bright future ahead of him.”
“I feel very comfortable passing the baton to him,” Sanderford recently told the Alabama Daily News. “I think he’s a smart guy, a sensible guy who listens to people.”
Lomax is the Vice President of Corporate Office Properties Trust. Since the beginning of his career, he has been responsible for the development of more than 1 million square feet of commercial space in northern Alabama – experience he believes will be crucial in his new role.
“I work in this business, which does a lot of business, which seems to tie in very well with what happened in Montgomery,” Lomax said. “There are many deals that are being canceled.”
A lifelong resident of Madison County, Lomax championed a strong economy, a safe county, and smart schools to combat what he called the county’s “growing pains.” As one of the fastest growing counties in the state, Lomax must continue to attract and retain talent, according to Lomax.
Lomax has been assigned to the Constitution, Campaigns and Elections, Ethics and Campaign Finance, and Ports, Waterways and Intermodal Transit committees.
Although he has not pre-tabled any legislation, Lomax has high expectations for the regular session of the Alabama Legislature, which begins in March.
“I’ll be listening a lot and talking a little less,” Lomax said. “Then hopefully I can figure out who my people are, form alliances, and try to work with people in my caucus to get some things done.”
Questions and Answers with Rep. James Lomax
Q: Why did you choose this seat as your next candidacy for elected office?
“I’ve been in politics for a long time. I’m 31 now, but when I was 18 I ran for Huntsville City Council. I was the youngest contestant to ever run in the city of Huntsville, and then shortly after that I lost, so I was the youngest loser to ever run, but I learned a lot. I kind of got bitten by this political virus and got interested, and I stuck with it. My professional career was in Huntsville. In the business I do in commercial real estate, I see how public affairs in the state interact with the economy. I knew I wanted to get involved, and Howard Sanderford, a longtime Representative who has done a lot of good for our state and in my Rotary club, came up to me and informed me that he would be retiring at the end of his year tenure. So I brought it up to my employer. I brought it up to my wife and we prayed about it and decided to just jump right in.”
Q: You ran for an open seat but had a four-man GOP primary that went to a runoff. What was your message to the voters to get them to vote for you?
“It was definitely a challenge. And what I represent and try to impose is that I am a hard worker. I went from packing groceries at Publix to vice president of a public company 12 years ago. I’m not saying this to be boastful. I say that because I work hard and put myself in an environment where I can be successful. Huntsville is one of those environments, and I want Huntsville to continue to be a great place to live, work, play, and try to improve the state of Alabama for future generations.
i have small children I have a 10 month old daughter. So I feel like I’m closer to a lot of people in the state because I’m living the future right now. You know, I want to build a better state for her and my family. So that was the message.”
Q: The Madison County House delegation consists of eight members. Three of you are new to this term. Have you had opportunities to share common priorities with the new and veteran members of the House?
“I haven’t been there very long, but I feel like we have a group that works very well together – everyone, whether it’s Rex Reynolds or Anthony Daniels. I could pick up the phone and ask questions, even during the election campaign and after the time I was nominated and waiting for the general election…”
Q: What is your plan to combat seniority loss in these new seats?
“…The good thing is that we all have great predecessors that we can look to and ask questions too. Rep. Howard Sanderford has been there for about 32 years, Rep. Mike Ball since 2002, and Mac McCutcheon is a former Speaker of the House, so we have a legacy that we have to live up to. The good news is that we can turn to them for advice and advice. And then we only work with the veteran members of our delegation. And that goes a long way in making sure we get on the right committees, committees that complement each other and that we can be a good advocate for our area.”
Q: You come from the commercial real estate industry in a district that is booming with new employers; How might this State House experience help you?
“… On some of these big projects here in Huntsville, I’ve seen how the economic stimulus packages are aligned and how they’re used and used. I was on the Alabama Daily News update the other day when Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, who has been an incredible leader in our state, spoke about the value of economic incentives in our state and how we remain competitive to ensure we create new jobs for the next generation. That’s one of the things I see on a daily basis: what it takes to close the deal, what it takes to get the business here, and then once they’re here, how do you keep them here. That will be important because as Alabama continues to create jobs, we will continue to attract and retain talent and the people we want to live here.”
Q: During your campaign you spoke about the growing pains in your district. As a Madison County native, what exactly are these growing pains?
“It’s really infrastructure, but that can be a vague word for a lot of people. It’s not just roads and bridges, we have our fair share of roads and bridges and areas that need maintenance. But it makes sure we keep up on the education side. We have to make sure we fund our schools and that we keep our teachers. When the classrooms get too big, you end up in a situation where suddenly it’s not only bad for the students, it’s bad for the teacher as well. They are undercompensated at this point because they are dealing with more students on a daily basis. It’s little things that people don’t usually think about. But growth is a multiplier – it brings more tax revenue to the country’s local government, but at the same time it puts more pressure on the country’s local government. We just have to be careful and have a safe balancing act.”
Q: What is the most important issue you see in your district and how could the Legislature help?
“You know, I’ve had quite a few inaugural calls. I feel like education is of great importance right now and just the future of our state and this has been heavily politicized I would say. But if we just had to peel off the layers and check it out, absolutely. The roads and bridges are the things we need to take care of as we continue to attract new jobs.”