1 year ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential government officials

Today, we introduce the second segment of the 2018 Power & Influence 50 on Yellowhammer News.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics. The intersection between business and politics in our state is undeniable, and our list is meant to provide you with an inside look at who wields the most power and influence in Alabama state politics.

The list is being released in three segments: business leaders, lobbyists and consultants and today’s segment, government officials.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Thank you for being a loyal reader of Yellowhammer News.

State Rep. Will Ainsworth

Those looking for the next generation among Alabama political figures, look no further than Will Ainsworth.

Ainsworth has already served a full term in the Alabama House of Representatives. Now, he stands ready to expand into a legitimate statewide power base.

Ainsworth is currently the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Having already received nearly 400,000 votes, his profile has quickly elevated across the state and in Montgomery. With only token opposition, Ainsworth is poised to become first in the line of succession to the governor’s office.

He is known for taking strong conservative stands which will continue to endear him to the conservative base in Alabama. He is a former youth pastor with a business background who will be lined up with the electorate on social and fiscal issues.

Ainsworth is forward thinking and has shown that he is not scared to step into the fray. So, expect him to cut out a role for himself in policy debates at the statehouse. This will only increase his power and influence.

State Rep. Steve Clouse, chairman, General Fund Budget Committee

While Steve Clouse hails from the small southeastern Alabama town of Ozark, this veteran state legislator oversees one of state government’s biggest annual headaches – the general fund – for the House. This budget funds the state’s most controversial functions, including Medicaid, prisons and mental health. With all of that thankless responsibility comes considerable power and influence.

Having served in the House since 1995, Clouse has achieved a statesman-like leadership status in the lower chamber. He also helps lead the Wiregrass’ delegation, which is steadily growing in influence with the help of Reps. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) and Paul Lee (R-Dothan). With Alabama’s General Fund Budget always a focal point of attention and political gamesmanship, Clouse figures to be an eminent political player for years to come.

Kay Ivey, governor of Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey has demonstrated raw political power unseen in state politics in quite a while.

In the Republican primary, she received 56 percent of the vote and avoided a runoff in a field of four. To put in perspective how resounding a victory she achieved, her opponents collectively outraised her by nearly $200,000 and still did not come close to holding her under 50 percent.

However, if campaigns are supposed to provide voters with a window into how a prospective officer holder will govern, then Ivey has shown she is a focused, confident leader. She has never strayed from her message and, when confronted with controversy, she responds with a decisiveness and clarity that should be in campaign consulting textbooks.

And we have seen this discipline in her governance. Ivey concentrates on what matters and does not get caught up in meaningless debate.

The state’s economy is roaring under Ivey. She is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.

And she has the power and influence of executive branch resources at her disposal. Those state agencies affect the lives of every Alabamian in every community.

Most importantly, Ivey connects with people. She connects naturally with people of all backgrounds, ages and geographic locations.

These components are the perfect recipe for success and place Kay Ivey in a truly special position of power and influence.

State Rep. Mike Jones, chairman, House Rules Committee

The chairmanship of the House Rules Committee brings with it substantial clout in the Alabama statehouse. Mike Jones has maximized that opportunity to become one of the building’s key political players.

As chairman of the committee that determines the order of bills taken up each legislative day, Jones has the ability to set legislative priorities, which in turn provides him substantial leverage in dealing with lobbyists as well as his own colleagues.

Jones is a political animal who enjoys the machinations of the statehouse.

He is also just as likely to dive into the details of legislation as he is the House political apparatus.

His chairmanship allows him to have control over the ebb and flow of the debate on the House floor. When legislation gets bogged down, Jones has tremendous leeway in determining its fate. He has a strong voice in whether to move on or fight through.

Jones is among those who may actually see his influence increase during the new term as new members enter the ranks. Look for him to stay on the list of Alabama’s power players.

Del Marsh, Senate president pro tem

Del Marsh is the kind of public servant for which the current electorate craves and our founding fathers envisioned. Marsh originally ran for office simply because his state senator was not responsive to the needs of small business.

Once elected, Marsh became a tireless advocate for smaller government. He is as comfortable in a tree stand as he is a committee room and feels as much at home in his machine shop fabricating gun parts as he does working in a boardroom.

Marsh has built a long record of seeking conservative solutions to the problems facing our state. He led the charge to provide education freedom to Alabama families; he formulated the largest reductions to the size of state government in history, and no one has cut taxes and red tape for small businesses quite like Marsh.

This approach has propelled Marsh into one of the most powerful and influential positions in Alabama politics. As Senate president pro tem, he oversees every aspect of the legislative process in the upper chamber. From committee assignments to legislative priorities to the time of adjournment, Marsh remains in control.

Del Marsh remains one of the most powerful and influential people in state politics for a reason.

 

Steve Marshall, attorney general of Alabama

After Marshall last year was appointed as the 48th attorney general of Alabama, Yellowhammer News wrote, “Marshall will likely meet some formidable opponents when he seeks his first state-wide election in 2018.  His ability to capitalize on the benefits of incumbency may prove he is one to watch in Alabama’s political future.”

Ever since Marshall’s first press conference as the state’s top law enforcement official, the former rural-county district attorney has handled the bright lights of Alabama’s political stage like a seasoned professional. With an even-keel demeanor and a genuinely warm personality, Marshall’s understated charisma is matched only by his legal intellect and political instincts.

Alabama has had a bevy of influential attorneys general in recent decades, with Marshall already making his own mark and then some. And his meteoric rise is not nearly over. He continues to get more and more involved with hot-button national issues such as immigration, abortion and oversight of tech companies, with his power and influence now extending beyond the Yellowhammer State’s borders thanks to a growing number of White House appearances.

 

Mac McCutcheon, speaker of the House

True leaders shine in times of chaos, and Mac McCutcheon’s rise to become Speaker of the House is bested in this department perhaps only by Governor Kay Ivey’s similar achievement in recent years.

One of the nice guys at the statehouse, McCutcheon has garnered power and influence even beyond his lofty position due to the sheer authenticity of his personality. With this comes the trust that legislators have in McCutcheon – if he promises something, you can take it to the bank. For his selfless, lifetime of service to Alabamians and significant contribution to the betterment of our state, McCutcheon this year will be presented with Yellowhammer’s Power of Service award.

With a new quadrennium on the horizon, McCutcheon will find himself in the political spotlight, as proposals regarding prickly issues like new infrastructure funding, the lottery and sports betting are all expected to come before the state legislature. Look for McCutcheon and the legislature’s leadership team to ably navigate several minefields in 2019.

 

State Rep. Bill Poole, chairman, Ways and Means Education Committee

Many refer to Bill Poole as a United States senator in waiting, and you can see why with a quick glance at his historic rise as a freshman legislator to chair the powerful committee in the House tasked with appropriations and revenue sources for the important Education Trust Fund – the state’s budget that handles K-12 and higher education funding.

Not only was his ascent impressive enough, but Poole has proven his merit and more since then, steering the education budget with such machine-like efficiency that you would miss what really sets him apart. When fellow legislators are asked about Poole’s talents, they cannot help but praise his intelligence, drive, vision and savviness. Yet, it’s that undefinable “it” factor that has political pundits and power brokers abuzz – Poole’s genuine, infectious likability.

Whether his future will continue to be in Montgomery or move to Washington, D.C. or elsewhere, Poole will undoubtedly be serving the people of Alabama in exemplary fashion for decades and decades to come.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, chairman, Senate Education Budget Committee

Now in his fourth year as chairman of the Senate Education Budget Committee, Arthur Orr has carved out a particular place of power and influence in state government.

The education budget in Alabama is a $6 billion chunk of money. And those who have any measure of control over state funds have a chance to exercise considerable leverage over policy-making. Orr has seized the opportunity before him.

An exceptionally smart and engaging lawyer by trade, Orr has an attention to detail which allows him to know every single line of the budget and every nook and cranny of state government to which that money flows. Orr makes anyone advocating for even the smallest portion of dollars from the education budget justify the expense.

As a result, other members of the legislature are highly attentive to Orr’s own legislative priorities which, in turn, only expands Orr’s power and influence even further.

Steve Pelham, chief of staff to Governor Kay Ivey

The success of the Ivey administration is undeniable. Governor Ivey has been a commanding figure during the term she filled and will likely enjoy a full term starting in January. However, that type of success for any political figure is a team effort. And the person coordinating that team for Ivey is Steve Pelham.

Pelham is a natural fit for his role as chief of staff to the governor. He is loyal, focused and selfless in his approach. Even though he sits in a position of significant power and influence, Pelham is rarely the subject of interviews or publicity. He understands the need for one voice representing the administration and the distractions that occur when that is not the case.

And, yet, no one outside of Governor Ivey, herself, plays a bigger role in the day-to-day operations of the governor’s office and has a greater say in the long-term vision for the administration.

Pelham has shown near perfect execution of the duties and role of the governor’s chief of staff. The result will be even greater opportunities for him to expand his power and influence in the future.

Greg Reed, Senate majority leader

Leading a majority party in the Alabama legislature is no easy task. It seems with any issue or strategy there will be conflicting motives, ideas, geographical concerns and – yes – egos. Under these conditions, being able to move the body forward toward any objective would seem a nearly impossible task. Furthermore, any person leading that effort leaves themselves vulnerable.

Greg Reed, however, can pull it off. Reed possesses exceptional personal and organizational skills which have helped him keep his caucus on track and still remain a popular figure with his colleagues. Reed is also a dogged competitor who, once his caucus sets off toward an objective, will work tirelessly to see it across the finish line.

Reed’s political career has accelerated at a rapid pace. His skills are a natural fit for Senate leadership. With numerous new Republican senators taking office in the upcoming term, Reed stands to become an even more trusted and influential player in statehouse politics. Greg Reed’s stock is only going up.

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, chairman, Senate Rules Committee

The road to success in the Alabama Senate travels through the office of Jabo Waggoner.

As chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, Waggoner sets the daily agenda for his chamber. He has the ability to move legislation forward at the timing of his choice. Or, he can stop a piece of legislation dead in its tracks if he so chooses.

And that is not the only source of his considerable clout.

Waggoner represents the conservative, business-minded district that occupies much of the territory in over-the-mountain Jefferson County. Many of the executives from Alabama’s largest employers live in Waggoner’s district. They are the type of power brokers for which other members of the legislature clamor to represent. And he has always been responsive to the needs of this constituency. A staffer at a large business organization once wrote in a pre-election assessment of Waggoner, “Send me more like Jabo Waggoner.”

The truth is, though, there are no others like Jabo Waggoner. His power, his influence and his legacy are unique in Alabama politics.

State Sen. Cam Ward, chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

Cam Ward was made for politics. He started his career as a congressional staffer before quickly moving on to bigger and better things.

Ward’s victory in a House of Representatives seat in 2002 marked the beginning of a noteworthy career in office. He has served in the Alabama Senate since 2010. His district includes a large part of the areas just south of Birmingham where he remains incredibly popular. Ward has faced very little opposition on the home front his entire time in office. Much of this is a result of his constant work on the local level and his attentiveness to his constituents.

In Montgomery, Ward chairs the all-important Senate Judiciary Committee, which is a committee that takes up more pieces of legislation than any other committee in the chamber. And Ward controls the throttle on all of it.

Ward is hard-working, ambitious and always mindful of every political angle. This, combined with the amount of legislation that falls within his control, makes him a real power player in state government.

3 hours ago

Sessions hits Jones over finding impeachment case ‘compelling’ — ‘Merely repeating the partisan attacks of Congressman Adam Schiff’

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not happy with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Sessions sent out a forceful response to Yellowhammer News’ reporting on Friday morning that Jones found the evidence against President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial “compelling.”

“Senator Doug Jones’ recent video appears to indicate that he is planning to vote to remove Donald Trump from the office of President of the United States. He is merely repeating the partisan attacks of Congressman Adam Schiff,” began Sessions.

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Sessions said he feels Jones is “not even attempting” to represent the people of Alabama.

Presumably, this is a reference to Jones’ openness to impeaching Trump, who sports around a 60% approval rating among the people of Alabama. It is also good political hay for Sessions to make in a Republican primary where Trump’s approval rating hovers around 90%.

“The Democrats do not allege any crime, nor do the vague charges in the articles of impeachment rise to a level that would justify the removal of our duly-elected President,” added Sessions.

Sessions this week was the subject of a much speculated-about Trump tweet that showed a poll from 2019 that had Sessions leading the field of contenders in the Republican primary.

To conclude his statement on impeachment, Sessions said, “The entire matter is being revealed as a political hit job, paid for by the taxpayers.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 hours ago

Tuberville: ‘Trump has done more for the rights of the unborn than any other President’

After President Donald J. Trump on Friday became the first sitting president in history to address the March for Life in Washington, D.C., former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville praised Trump’s staunch pro-life stance.

Tuberville is a candidate in Alabama’s 2020 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Trump’s speech can be viewed below:

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Tuberville said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “President Trump attending the March For Life Rally is a victory for all in the Pro-Life movement.”

“President Trump has done more for the rights of the unborn than any other President,” he concluded. “I’ll continue to fight for the unborn with President Trump when elected to the Senate. It’s simple: life begins at conception!”

Friday’s March for Life occurred two days after the 47th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

RELATED: Tuberville ‘all for’ abortion ban — ‘You’ve got to take your hat off to not just Alabama but other states’ on effort to overturn Roe v. Wade

One of the other featured speakers at the 2020 March for Life has a major Alabama tie.

David Platt, formerly the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, was highlighted on the March for Life’s website as a keynote speaker. Platt made national news last year when Trump showed up to his current church in Virginia; the pastor then movingly prayed over the president on stage.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Bama, Auburn combine for three of four SEC players in 2020 State Farm All-Star Football Challenge

The 22nd annual State Farm All-Star Football Challenge will return to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and air on ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. CT on January 31.

The exclusive skills competition will feature 24 of college football’s brightest stars divided into six teams based on their college conference. The conferences represented are the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12, the SEC and four of the best players outside of the Power Five that will be called the “Wild Card” team.

Of the four players on the SEC team, the University of Alabama had two, Auburn had one and Vanderbilt had the fourth and final player.

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Team SEC as follows:

Nick Coe, DE, Auburn
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Terrell Lewis, LB, Alabama
Riley Neal, QB, Vanderbilt

Each player will individually participate in a timed event, and the competition will then finish with a full team event. All events will be timed and have individual winners, which will be compiled into a cumulative score to determine the winning team. For example, the quarterbacks from each team will compete against each other to win their competition. Ultimately, however, their time will be added to the times of the other competitors on their conference designated team to have a final team score.

Individual events will include the State Farm QB Accuracy Competition, the Mercedes-Benz Obstacle Course, the Rocket Mortgage Strength Challenge and the Hands Competition. To conclude the program, the players will compete as teams in the State Farm Team Competition.

Alumni of the State Farm All-Star Football Challenge include 81 first-round NFL Draft picks, including 38 Pro Bowlers, such as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Ramsey, Dalvin Cook, Derwin James, Landon Collins, Von Miller, Vernon Davis, Joe Flacco, Dez Bryant, Donovan McNabb, Reggie Wayne and Edgerrin James.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama finishes decade with record low unemployment rate, sets more economic milestones

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington on Friday announced that the state maintained its record low unemployment rate last month, ending 2019 with a preliminary, seasonally adjusted December unemployment rate of 2.7%, unchanged from November, and far below December 2018’s rate of 3.8%.

Multiple other economic records were again set last month, in addition to the record low unemployment rate holding steady.

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey said, “I’m so proud to be able to close out this decade with record-breaking economic measures.”

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December’s unemployment rate, which ranked fifth-lowest in the nation, represented 2,204,740 employed people, a new record high, representing an increase of 83,971 from December 2018. Additionally, 61,458 people were counted as unemployed, another new record and a drop of 22,051 from last year. Moreover, the civilian labor force grew by 61,920 over the year to a new record high of 2,266,198.

“All year long, we’ve had good news to share, and to be able to end the year, and the decade, on such a positive note is wonderful,” the governor concluded. “Earlier this year, Alabama had never reported an unemployment rate lower than 3.0%, and now we’ve had one for the last three months! Nearly 84,000 more people have jobs now than last year. I’m excited about the path that Alabama is on, and the positive impacts this news has on our people.”

Wage and salary employment grew over the year by 46,300. Yearly gains were seen in the professional and business services sector (+15,000), the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,800) and the government sector (+6,100), among others. Over the month, gains were seen in the trade, transportation and utilities sector (+4,000), the construction sector (+700) and the professional and business services sector (+200).

“For the eleventh month in a row, our job growth has met or surpassed the nation’s,” Washington stated. “We’ve gained over 46,000 jobs since last December, and we continue to see employers posting job ads.”

Additionally, Alabama’s job growth rate for December was 2.2%. It significantly surpassed the national job growth rate of 1.4%, marking the 11th month that Alabama’s job growth rate matched or exceeded the national rate in 2019.

“Average weekly wages showed significant growth this month, registering at an all-time high,” Washington added. “Additionally, we saw many sectors and subsectors reach all-time wage highs, including manufacturing, with a monthly wage increase of $25.57, and financial activities, with a monthly wage increase of $50.78.”

Total private average weekly wages measured $875.44 in December, representing a monthly increase of $15.14.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates last month were: Shelby County at 1.8%; Marshall, Madison and Cullman Counties at 2.1%; and Tuscaloosa, St. Clair, Morgan, Limestone, Lee and Elmore Counties at 2.2%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were: Wilcox County at 6.8%, Clarke County at 5.5% and Greene and Lowndes Counties at 4.8%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were: Vestavia Hills at 1.4%, Homewood at 1.6% and Hoover and Northport at 1.7%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were: Prichard at 5.0%, Selma at 4.9% and Bessemer at 3.7%.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

What does Trump’s tweet say about his position on the U.S. Senate race in Alabama?

After remaining silent on the GOP primary in 2020 U.S. Senate race for the state of Alabama, the President of the United States has checked in via Twitter.

But what does it mean?

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The answer to this question all depends on how you lean in the race.

Do you support former Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

Trump is happy he is leading!

Do you support former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville?

Trump is happy that Tuberville is close to Sessions (he did tweet a poll put out by a pro-Tuberville group)!

Do you support U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope)?

Trump is bringing attention to the race to get people to pay attention to all of the ads on television and radio by the Byrne campaign.

Do you support former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore?

Hey, at least Trump didn’t say he wanted Moore out of the race again.

Do you support State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs)?

Hey look, Arnold Mooney is included!

Do you support Stanley Adair?

Hi, Stanley!

Before anyone gets too excited, Trump was tweeting about a bunch of races, so maybe it means nothing.

Also, let’s remember that Trump was 0-2 in 2017. He backed then- Senator Luther Strange (R-AL) for reelection to the seat he was appointed to and he then begrudgingly backed Roy Moore. Obviously, the existence of U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) shows he was not successful in either endeavor.

Because of this, President Donald Trump should just sit this one out.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.