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Jockeying for Speaker

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Before Mike Hubbard’s political body was even cold, Business Council of Alabama (BCA) Chairman Billy Canary and former Gov. Bob Riley were jockeying to place their “next guy” in the Speaker’s chair.

Reps. Mac McCutcheon, Mike Jones, Victor Gaston, Bill Poole, Lynn Greer, Phil Williams and David Standridge are the names most often mentioned. With the exception of Poole, all these men are contemplating a run for the spot previously held by Mike Hubbard.

Several lawmakers have said anyone who attended the Hubbard Pep Rally the day after his indictment should be immediately be disqualified. If that is the case, then McCutcheon and Jones are out.

Poole, the father of small children with a growing law practice, is said to be an odds-on favorite, but his family commitments will most likely stand in the way of any motivation to take the top job in the House. Also, Poole has expressed a desire to run for governor one day, and the speaker’s position it not the ideal place to launch a gubernatorial campaign. A speaker makes a lot of friends, but more enemies. In politics, friends come and go, but enemies multiply.

McCutcheon and Jones are rumored to be at the top of Riley and Canary’s wish list, but that could just be rumor. But McCutcheon showed himself willing to do Hubbard’s bidding as rules chair, even introducing the Star Chamber bill that would have given the power to close down funding for the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Unit, which was prosecuting him. Gaston has friends who think he is a good choice, but he also did Hubbard’s will, as his pick to be House Pro Tem. No one received any assignment or position without kowtowing to Hubbard.

Many think Greer could handle the job because of his experience and his limited connection to Hubbard.

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Williams and Standridge are outsiders, with little connection to Hubbard’s troubled past; but they have a few hills of their own to climb.

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Speaking on background, several House members see the chamber divided into three factions. Around 20 members want to see real change after Hubbard’s reign, an equal number want to continue the status quo, and in the middle are the vast majority who simply want to vote for the winner, whoever he/she might be.

State law requires the vote for Speaker take place on the floor. However, under Hubbard, the House Republican Caucus votes decided who would become speaker, forcing their choice on the minority Democrats. Lawmakers who hope for change find this a disturbing practice.

Majority Leader Micky Hammon is charged with calling the next caucus meeting where many hope for a new beginning.

For now, the Speaker’s position is in flux, as various factions and interest groups work behind the scenes to elect the next House leader.

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