HELENA - Former state Transportation Director Jim Lynch said Thursday night he is running for governor as a Republican, about two months after Gov. Brian Schweitzer asked him to resign his post.
He becomes the ninth Republican to jump into the 2012 governor's race, along with two Democrats. Schweitzer is barred by term limits from seeking a third straight term.
Lynch, 57, had been part of Democrat Schweitzer's Cabinet since January 2005, heading the agency until Schweitzer sought his resignation in August. Schweitzer's office confronted Lynch about the past hiring of the director's daughter at the department about four years ago. Lynch has maintained he did nothing wrong and wasn't involved in the hiring decision.
Although Lynch lost a race for the state Senate in 1994 as a Democrat, he maintained he is a Republican.
"I'm probably like most Montanans," he said. "Most of my views are Republican. I'm a Republican. I've never voted for a Democrat for president in my life."
Looking ahead, Lynch said he is running for governor to pave the way for economic development.
"We have ensnared ourselves in the ‘way things are done' instead of addressing the problems of the state with common-sense solutions and a sense of urgency," Lynch said in a statement. "I've demonstrated an ability to transform organizations, both in private business and complex public-sector organizations, and look forward to apply similar disciplines across state government to address the critical issues facing Montanans."
He cited his 25 years of private-sector experience, including his "transformative leadership" in bringing NUPAC, based in Kalispell, from the verge of bankruptcy to profitability in a year.
In his more than 5 1/2 years heading the Transportation Department, Lynch said he refocused the organization to become more accountable to taxpayers by delivering projects and services on time and on budget. The department increased its on-the-ground transportation projects from $240 million a year to $400 million, without any increases in the state gasoline tax.
"Most of these projects had been approved and planned, but were bogged down in the bureaucratic process," Lynch said. "Construction jobs are a critical element of Montana's economy, and we needed to get these projects delivered."
There's a sense of urgency and efficiency in the private sector, Lynch said.
"We need to bring that same urgency to state government, be accountable to our citizens as customers and aggressively meet their needs," Lynch said.
The former Transportation director said he was recognized as a hands-on leader in emergency efforts and as a catalyst in developing safety programs that significantly reduced fatalities on Montana's highways.
Lynch is a Spokane, Wash., native who has lived in Montana since 1986. He has a bachelor's degree in management science from Kean University in New Jersey.
Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.