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.
The top 5 will be announced live on the Matt Murphy show at 7:00 a.m. the morning of Monday, Feb. 27. If you’re not in the Birmingham area, you can listen live by clicking here.
6. Jay Love | State Representative
As Chairman of the Education Trust Fund in the House, Love stared down Paul Hubbert in committee meeting after committee meeting during the 2011 session — and never flinched. Having him as Chairman of the ETF creates a huge comfort zone for the Speaker because he never has to worry about things running off the rails.
Love is a top-notch policy guy. “No one does a better job of cutting through the BS from lobbyists and other legislators and determining what’s real and important,” said one insider.
His loyalty to the Speaker is unmatched and the Speaker has rewarded him by positioning him as a major player. He has been extremely successful in the private sector which allows him to now devote his energy to public service.
7. Arthur Orr | State Senator
With the state in a budget crisis that looks like it will be around for the foreseeable future, Orr’s role as Senate General Fund Chairman puts him in a position of substantial power. I had an opportunity to sit-in on a budget meeting during the 2011 session and it was obvious that he has an uncanny grasp of the budget numbers. He’s also very close to the Senate President Pro Tem.
Orr is from an area of North Alabama that has enjoyed significant economic development with the influx of defense contractors and the biotech industry. Business leaders in the area have a vested interest in his success which gives him a lot of room for growth. His political career is just getting started.
8. Luther Strange | Alabama Attorney General
When I asked one insider to sum up AG Strange’s power and influence in one sentence he said, “I can do it in just two words: subpoena power.” Indeed, being the state’s top law enforcement officer carries a certain amount of weight. If you’re an elected official in Alabama and you’re planning on enacting controversial legislation, you better have the AG on board because he’s going to be the one who has your back if it gets challenged in court.
Strange’s reach extends well outside the AG’s office. Outside of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, no one has better fundraising connections — particularly among the Birmingham power brokers. He also has DC connections that allow him to tap into support that is unavailable to most other elected officials in state government.
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions once sat in the seat that AG Strange currently occupies. Don’t be surprised when Strange follows in his footsteps.
9. Joe Fine | Lobbyist | Fine Geddie & Associates
Fine’s client list is simply unmatched. He has decades upon decades of experience and strong relationships in every branch of state government and in every far-reaching corner of every obscure state agency. “Joe Fine is an Alabama political institution,” said one insider. “He’s one of the first phone calls you make if you want to run for high political office in this state.”
Fine was shrewd enough to get ahead of the curve and began heavily supporting Republican candidates before the Montgomery establishment realized the Democrats’ time was coming to an end. “He’s a true gentlemen and the ultimate lobbyist,” commented one of his colleagues. Fine will hold the crown as the state’s top lobbyist until he decides to let it go.
10. Dax Swatek | Founding Partner | Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross
2010 was a historic year for the Alabama Republican Party. The fundraising plan that Speaker Hubbard and Senator Marsh (ALGOP Chairman and Finance Chairman at the time) put together was incredibly successful. However, Swatek was the architect of the statewide political operation that led to the Republican tidal wave at the ballot box. Even his opposition recognizes that he is probably the most talented strategist in the state.
Now that the GOP is operating as the majority, Swatek continues to be Speaker Hubbard’s political confidant.
Swatek is also one of the state’s top lobbyists. He has an extensive client list and he brings his keen strategic abilities to the lobbying side when advocating for issues. He has a wealth of relationships in both the House and Senate and strong ties in the Birmingham business community. He grinds it out day after day as one of the most disciplined lobbyists and consultants in the business.