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Opinion

Why The Rush To Choose A New Speaker?

By Jack Campbell

The half-hearted joke around The Capital City is that Mike Hubbard’s trial corpse wasn’t even cool before lobbyists in Montgomery were getting out their rosters of State House members and firing up their calculators to see who might have the inside track to be the next speaker. Former Speaker Hubbard will face sentencing next Friday, and folks are coming out of the woodwork to test the waters to replace him. And lobbyists are shamelessly doing their damnedest to own the Hubbard successor.

Why do we have to elect a new Speaker right now? We have a Speaker Pro Tem whose job is to preside in the absence of the speaker. That man is Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), a long-time House member (30-plus years) whose reputation is one of integrity and affability. I have known Victor since he was elected, and I can’t think of any reason he can’t at least finish out Hubbard’s term which ends in 2018. I favor term limits, but we may as well utilize Victor’s knowledge of the system, the rules and the people. I believe with a certainty Victor is inherently honest, and that means a great deal in this sketchy environment. Victor bowed out recently, but could he be persuaded to serve only until Hubbard’s term expires? It’s worth asking him.

Make no mistake, others are burning up the phones trolling for votes. Mac McCutcheon (R-District 25) is a name we hear most mentioned. My problem with Mac is his coziness to the old regime, so much so, he went to the post-indictment pep rally and he sponsored some stinky legislation pushed by Hubbard. And, even after the guilty verdict, he made public statements that Hubbard still has the right to appeal. Sorry, Mac, twelve counts are a stout hill to climb in court. That, and, wake up, Mac, Mike is simply not a trustworthy man…period.

Alan Harper (R-District 2) is another name. That’s a joke on its face. Harper, it has been rumored, collects a check for 100 percent disability. How can a disabled man take on such a tough job? Then, there’s a rumor his residency claimed on his Statement of Economic Interests does not match that of his Secretary of State financial disclosure report. Does that mean he lives outside of his district on a lake? Hmmm. And he’s a hothead with one of those Porter Waggoner hairdos with a brushy, outdated mustache. We don’t need a charlatan like that in the Speaker’s office.

Then Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) has feelers out. I’ve known Steve since college and like him very much personally. But he’s afraid of his own shadow, and he chaired the Budget Committee that allowed the 23 word change that got Hubbard one of his guilty verdicts. Not a good fit if we are truly putting the corrupt Hubbard era in the rear view mirror.

Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) announced he was running while Hubbard was still in power. While it was a ballsy move, Phil seemed to fizzle since then. He’s rich and shouldn’t have a penchant for stealing, but the fire in the belly, it appears, consists merely of embers at this point.

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Some folks say Lyn Greer (R-District 61) wants a shot. Talk about a re-tread, let’s hope this is just a bad publicity stunt.

Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) wants the job. He’s chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the panel that voted “aye” on the $800 million no-bid prison construction bill. That’s problematic, at least in my book. Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how was that ride through Dallas? Actually, Mike is an overall good guy who doesn’t need outside income to survive, but we have to ask him about the prison issue.

Is there a dark horse? No one seems to know because, unfortunately, this vote is on the fast track. This legislature is known for quick votes so that the public doesn’t have time to study the bills and time to voice opposition. Looks like the same holds true in electing a new Speaker.

Is it too much to ask for someone squeaky clean to emerge? Or is there such a thing as squeaky clean anymore? Well, we erroneously believed Bentley was until the pesky revelation of his personal on-staff trollop.

I like Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley). He’s a successful and honest small-town lawyer with no steppingstone agenda. He was fearless in saying no to Mike Hubbard’s demands, and he won’t be a puppet to lobbyists. Tim’s only electability issue is that he’s only served since 2014. That’s what I like about him. He’s new, smart, fair and uncorrupted.

Ricky Ricardo’s famous rant when Lucy veered off the reservation was that she had “some ‘plaining to do.” The voters deserve some explanation as to why these guys are running and why they are worthy to lead, and lead with integrity.

This hurry-up vote makes me suspicious that the Billy Canarys and Bob Rileys in the lobbying world have one hand on their cell phones while they come up for air from the feeding trough to dial the call. Once again, the tail in Alabama continues to wag the dog. When will it end?

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Victor, please reconsider, with the promise you’ll be no Mike Hubbard and that you won’t seek re-election to the House in 2018. That will give these speaker wannabes a chance to prove themselves in the next couple of sessions to come.

(The official Alabama House of Reps. website does not provide district office mailing addresses nor names of hometowns of the members. Imagine that! That is why District numbers rather than hometowns have been listed beside certain members’ names above. I just did not want the readers to think I was too lazy to look them up.)

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