The Yellow Hammer Power & Influence 40 is a list of the 40 most powerful and influential players in Alabama politics. For a more in-depth explanation of the list and how it was compiled, click here.
Thank you all for following along as I released this list. Over the course of just the passed week, this blog has gone from being a place where a few hundred conservatives would drop by each day, to the go-to source for Alabama political news and commentary for thousands of people from all over the state and nation. I think that’s what Malcolm Gladwell calls a “tipping point.”
Special thanks to Matt Murphy for inviting me on his show to release the top 5. And a very special thanks to the House and Senate members, lobbyists, consultants, and insiders who gave the valuable time, opinions, and knowledge that made this list possible.
1. Governor Robert Bentley and Speaker Mike Hubbard
There has never before been a Republican Governor and Republican Speaker at the same time in the state of Alabama. Bentley and Hubbard’s ability to work together has enhanced their power and influence as individuals. The Governor and the Speaker are known to be in constant communication and their staffs coordinate to make sure they’re on the same page.
Bentley has held the line on tough issues and has found a conservative-friendly legislature under Hubbard’s control. Meanwhile, Hubbard’s reform-minded legislation factory has found an enthusiastic signer in the Governor’s office.
One would not be near as potent or successful without the other.
For that reason, Governor Bentley and Speaker Hubbard share the top spot in the inaugural Power & Influence 40.
Dr. Robert Bentley | Governor of Alabama
In 2010, Robert Bentley was the exact right candidate running the exact right campaign at the exact right time. Alabama loves an underdog and Bentley found success by touting his ability to be the Doctor that could get Alabama off of life support. His resilience was on display as he emerged the survivor of the brutally tough 2010 election cycle. Now in his second year as Governor, he’s really hitting his stride.
The Office of Governor is extremely powerful in Alabama. It oversees almost 30 state agencies, maintains a huge executive branch budget, and makes countless appointments ranging from local registrars to university boards to the Supreme Court. The Governor is also the face of Alabama’s economic development efforts around the world. When major corporations are looking to locate in the state, the Governor engages to close the deal.
Since taking office, Bentley has received rave reviews for his commitment to conservative governance. He has stood by his commitment to not raise taxes and showed courage in taking on tough issues that have alluded past Governors. By sticking to his guns, his power and influence have grown. His exemplary performance in the aftermath of 2011’s tornado outbreak have also won him a ton of goodwill throughout the state.
Never underestimate the power of a Governor on a mission.
Mike Hubbard | Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives
In 1997, then-Congressman Bob Riley convinced his friend Mike Hubbard to run for a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. 15 years later, after Riley served two terms as Governor and Hubbard became the first Republican Speaker of the House since Reconstruction, Hubbard is the most powerful legislator in the state.
In 2007, Hubbard became Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. He created and methodically executed a plan that ultimately propelled the GOP into the majority. While others came before him and laid the groundwork, 20 years from now we may look back and consider Hubbard the founder of the modern Republican Party in Alabama. He is undoubtedly the State Party’s greatest chairman. Many Republican members of the legislature are forever indebted to Hubbard for his efforts to get them elected. Now, as Speaker, he can count on their loyalty.
The office of Speaker drives the agenda for the legislature. All bills relating to taxation must start in the House. The office of Speaker also makes countless appointments to boards and commissions, names all the Committee Chairmen in the House, and presides over House operations.
Hubbard also brings his extensive business background with him into the State House. He has completely redesigned the building’s workspace and assembled a crack team of aides who have played a significant role in creating the most efficiently run Speaker’s office in recent memory. The operations of the State House are extremely disciplined. No Speaker has ever run a tighter ship.
Hubbard is equally influential behind closed doors as he is sitting in his chair presiding over the House. Business leaders around the state drop whatever they’re doing to take his calls and have come to value his straightforward approach. His work ethic has become the stuff of legend. He’s known for sending emails at all hours of the night
Constantly working, consistently expanding his reach — Hubbard is the epitome of a power player.
2. Del Marsh | President Pro Tem | Alabama Senate
Marsh’s innovative ways have been evident all the way back to college when he was known to have an uncanny ability to turn ideas into money-makers. While many of his friends squeaked by during their college years, Marsh launched small-businesses that consistently turned a profit. In the 1990s, he founded Aerospace Coatings International, a company that refurbishes airplane parts. He sold the company in 2010 but projected it was going to do $14-15 million in revenue for the year. With the state budgets in dire condition, there’s no better time to have a leader with Marsh’s business savvy running things in the Senate.
During his time as Finance Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, the Party raised an unprecedented amount of money. That money ultimately provided GOP candidates around the state with the resources they needed to overtake incumbents and capture open seats.
As President Pro Tem of the Senate, Marsh determines who will be chairman for each Senate committee. He also works closely with Senate Rules Chairman Jabo Waggoner to set the Senate calendar. Marsh’s demeanor is a perfect fit for Senate leadership which requires a ton of compromising, deal-making, and personality managing. With only 35 members in the Senate, every vote counts and he has done a remarkable job holding together a strong coalition on important votes. Marsh is the model for how to wield influence in Alabama politics.
3. Billy Canary | President and CEO | Business Council of Alabama
Canary’s resume is unmatched in all of Alabama politics. From working on presidential campaigns, to being appointed Special Assistant to the President in the George H.W. Bush White House, to working as Chief of Staff for the Republican National Committee, to leading the American Trucking Association — his political experience simply outclasses everyone else in the state. In his position as President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, Canary now leads the state’s foremost business association.
In 2009, Canary went “all-in” with the GOP’s plan to takeover the majority in both houses of the legislature. He caught a lot of flack for that from Democrats and Montgomery insiders during the last session of the 2006-2010 quadrinnium — but his vision is now paying off in a major way. Among business associations, the BCA has become the #1 endorsement sought by candidates.
No one is closer to GOP leadership in the legislature. Canary counts the Speaker as one of his closest friends and allies. I had the opportunity to sit down for lunch with the Speaker and him over the summer and gained a real sense of just how integral a role Canary had played in the rise of the Alabama GOP. He’s now the most powerful & influential non-elected official in the state.
4. Jabo Waggoner | Chairman | Alabama Senate Rules Committee
Waggoner has been in the Alabama legislature since 1966. He is now serving his 6th term in the Alabama Senate of which he’s been a member since 1983. His longevity is the result of his long history of genuinely representing his constituents. Where so many legislators get caught up in the “Montgomery shuffle,” Waggoner has consistently voted with the people in his district — and they’ve rewarded him for it.
Waggoner was elected Minority Leader of the Senate in 2002 and again in 2007. Now he’s leader of the new GOP majority caucus. No one knows the process in the Senate better than Waggoner and his strength is further enhanced by the level of respect he receives from his colleagues, the lobbying community, and from business leaders around the state. However, his most important source of power now comes from his position as Senate Rules Committee Chairman. It is extremely difficult to get bills onto the Senate calendar and as Rules Chairman, Waggoner makes those decisions.
After decades of grinding it out in the minority, Waggoner has now ascended to the highest levels of power & influence.
5. Charles McCrary | President and CEO | Alabama Power Company
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby has been known to say that there are three political parties in Alabama: The Republican Party, The Democratic Party, and Alabama Power. The company’s reach is so broad that almost every state policy has the potential to affect their business in some way. For that reason, Alabama Power has been an active player for decades in every nook and cranny of state government — from the county and municipal levels all the way up to the state legislature, AG’s office and the executive branch.
McCrary is the first call made by anyone who wants to run for high political office in the state. Under his leadership, Alabama Power has supported candidates from both sides of the aisle. So while others had a tough time adapting in the wake of the GOP takeover, they have had no trouble retaining their position. McCrary maintains strong relationships with Governor Bentley and with GOP leadership in both chambers of the state legislature and his close allies include a who’s who of Alabama CEOs and business leaders.
Alabama Power is constantly evaluating their political standing 24/7/365 and their political strategy starts and ends in the office of Charles McCrary. With a seemingly infinite amount of resources, McCrary and Alabama Power wield influence on a level that most others, including some below them on this list, could only wish to attain.