By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
In the 2010 election, Republicans swept Democrats in almost every competitive race for seats in the Alabama House of Representatives. When that new House Republican Caucus met for the first time in November 2010 then Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) easily bested then State Representative Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood) to become the first Republican Speaker of the House in 135 years and arguably the most powerful man in Alabama politics. Hubbard’s controversial reign as Speaker came crashing down around him on June 10 when a dozen jurors in a Lee County courtroom found Hubbard guilty of 12 counts of felony ethics violations for using that office for his personal gain. On Tuesday, August 2, an older, more experienced, and perhaps wiser House Republican Caucus meets to decide who will replace Hubbard as Speaker.
Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston (R-Mobile) assumed the job by rule; but has announced that he does not want the position. A half dozen candidates are seeking the position.
State Representative Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) said on social media, “Boarding a plane out of Richmond, bound for Montgomery. Leaving Wendi and the girls here while I head to our Republican House caucus meeting to select our new leadership. These are trying times, please be in prayer that God’s will be done tomorrow.”
State Representative Allen Farley (R-McCalla) said in his weekly column, “I had walked out to the garage trying to get my mind off of the upcoming Republican Caucus Speaker’s election. Six good men all wanting to be Alabama’s next Speaker of the House. Will we vote for the best person to fix a broken system? Will we vote to replace Mike Hubbard with someone from the same Alabama Political Herd? Or, will we vote for the State Representative willing to tell the Alabama House we are no longer level or square, and our foundation is beginning to crumble? Personally, I believe my great-grandfather’s level would fit well in one of those hands.”
Because all Republican candidates for the House have signed a loyalty oath to support the leadership decisions of the caucus no matter what, whomever wins the caucus vote today, will be the next Speaker of the House. The Republican Super Majority is pledged to vote en masse as a block when the House reconvenes for the August 15, Special Session, thus Alabama Democrats will have no say in who fills the seat.
The House Black Caucus said in a statement that it is troubled by plans to elect the next Speaker during the Republican Caucus meeting. Members cite concerns with the use of an exclusionary, partisan practice to make a decision as important and impactful as the selection of one of the state’s most powerful government officials.
The Chairman of the House Black Caucus John Knight (D-Montgomery) said, “If nothing else, the last two years of controversy and scandal among our state’s top political officials, have confirmed that the Speaker of the House reflects, impacts and represents our state as a whole. Continuing the practice of closed-door Speaker elections will undermine the democratic process and infringe upon the rights of all House members to vote on one of our state’s highest officials.”
Knight added, “While women account for more than 50 percent of Alabama’s population and minority races and ethnicities combine to create roughly 30 percent of population, the House Republican Caucus lacks diversity, without a single non-white member and only 7 percent female representatives. Any action to limit consideration of candidates for Speaker of the House to decisions made during a Republican Caucus meeting, will mark an unfortunate return to a period in history when only white males decided what’s best for the State.”
The candidates reportedly include: Rules Committee Chairman Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw), Military & Veterans Affairs Chairman Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), House Ways & Means Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), Rep. Phil Williams (R-Huntsville), State Government Vice Chair Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) and Transportation Utilities & Infrastructure Chairman Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville). Rep. Phil Williams challenged Mike Hubbard (who was under indictment at the time) for Speaker at the Caucus meeting in January. That effort proved unsuccessful. Hubbard stripped Williams of his Committee Chairmanship in retaliation
The Caucus may approve any member of the House for the job. Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) has campaigned for the job, though the Republicans selecting someone who is not a member of their Caucus seems unlikely.