4 years ago

Alabama’s most powerful politician has fallen. Here’s what (and who) is next.

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (Photo: Facebook)
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (Photo: Facebook)

Mike Hubbard was convicted on 12 felony public corruption charges late last week, immediately prompting his removal from office as Alabama’s Speaker of the House. Such a scenario would be a seismic political event, regardless of the individual; the Speaker’s post is arguably the most powerful position in state government. But Hubbard may have been the strongest speaker to ever hold the job, meaning his ouster will now lead to a power vacuum of tectonic proportions.

His sentencing will not take place for almost a month, but the jockeying for power among his former colleagues began mere moments after the jury returned to the Lee County courtroom with a verdict.

“The corpse is still warm and the vultures are already swarming,” one House member texted less than 30 minutes after the trial’s conclusion. “It’s sad, really.”

Such a moment provides a rare, honest glimpse into the world of power politics, where naked ambition is often clothed in false humility to make it more palatable to a public that still values the appearance of reluctant leadership.

So what, and perhaps more importantly “who,” is next?

Here’s our best shot at making sense of the chaos:

1. Sentencing and uncertainty

Mike Hubbard’s sentencing will take place July 8th. He faces the possibility of spending decades behind bars, meaning there will be a lot of nervous politicos around the state wondering what Hubbard might tell prosecutors in an effort to obtain a lighter sentence.

Where does the attorney general’s office go from here? They landed the big fish they wanted, but there are still some unanswered questions.

Perhaps most notably, what will the AG’s office do about the lobbyists and the businessmen who employ them (i.e. principals) from whom Hubbard was convicted of soliciting and taking “things of value”? Do they double down and pursue charges against them, too, or do they take their victory and move on?

As of now, there are a lot more questions than answers on this front.

2. The process of electing a new Speaker of the House

Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston is now the acting Speaker of the House and will serve in that role until a new Speaker is elected by a vote of the full House of Representatives at the beginning of the next legislative session.

That means it could be months until a new Speaker is officially installed. Someone will, however, become the presumptive Speaker of the House before then.

House Republicans will likely convene in the coming weeks to decide who they will collectively put forward to be the next Speaker.

As of now, a handful of House members are testing the waters to see if they might have enough support to either become Speaker or to cut a deal with someone they believe could win.

3. The early favorite

The Speaker’s gavel is State Rep. Bill Poole’s (R-Tuscaloosa) for the taking, but it is unclear right now if he wants it.

The parallels between Poole and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan are almost uncanny.

Both are young and rose through the ranks quickly based on sheer talent and ultimately gained their colleagues’ respect as policy wonks sitting atop budget committees. Both are “consensus picks,” bridging the gap between staunch conservatives and more moderate factions, as well as between younger and older members. Both have shied away from socializing with lobbyists outside of work, opting instead to spend time with their young families. Both are viewed as an opportunity to “turn the page,” Ryan from years of Boehner’s broken promises and penchant for “punishing” Republicans who opposed him, Poole from years of Hubbard’s bullying and iron-fisted rule. Both stand out among their colleagues for their genuine reluctance to become Speaker. Both also worry that their aspirations for higher office may be derailed by taking an often thankless job that is usually the last stop in a long career, not a stepping stone for a politician with decades ahead of them.

But here’s the fact of the matter: Bill Poole will be Speaker of the House, if he wants to be, and he is the only House member who can say that right now.

His decision is made more difficult by the fact that he is a practicing attorney who has to bill hours to make a living. The Speaker’s job can be all consuming, and Poole is not one to do things halfway. He is going to have to decide whether he wants to make the personal and business sacrifices that will be necessary to do the job.

Stay tuned.

4. Other key players

If Poole decides to pass on the job, chaos and deal-making will ensue.

State Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville) is the next most likely candidate. He is widely respected on both sides of the aisle for his fairness as Rules Committee Chairman, but he lost the support of many staunch conservatives with his outspoken push for a gas tax this past session. Losing that bloc of votes makes it much more difficult for McCutcheon to cobble together a coalition to win. He and Poole are meeting on Monday to discuss their plans.

State Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) was one of the first out of the gate trying to wrangle support in the wake of Hubbard’s conviction. He has also had former House member and current Secretary of State John Merrill calling members on his behalf. Jones has a small group of loyalists in his camp, but is viewed with suspicion by a wide swath of the GOP caucus. He has no clear ideology and his management of the Judiciary Committee has left some members questioning whether he could handle the Speaker’s job, which is very process-oriented. His best bet may be to leverage his bloc of votes — however small it may be — to keep his seat at the Leadership table.

Other names getting tossed around include Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville), who has the support of a chunk of staunch conservatives and may run if Poole opts out; Jim Carnes (R-Birmingham), who’s been trying to become speaker for a long time but is viewed as somewhat of a retread and just doesn’t have the base of support to pull it off; Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville), a well-liked elder statesman who could be the fallback choice if a nasty fight breaks out between other contenders; Phil Williams (R-Huntsville), a successful entrepreneur who was the only House member bold enough to challenge Hubbard directly for the job while he was still in office; Randy Davis (R-Mobile), a south Alabama businessman; and April Weaver (R-Pelham), the first woman to ever serve as chairman of the House Health Committee.

5. A new day

The Speaker’s post will remain one of the most powerful jobs in the state because of the way Alabama’s government is structured with a weak executive and strong legislature. But no matter who assumes the role, power and authority in the House is going to be much more decentralized than it was under Hubbard, and that is a good thing.

26 mins ago

Montgomery launches ‘Feed the Meter for the Homeless’ project

Under the leadership of Mayor Steven L. Reed, new specialized parking meters were installed last week in downtown Montgomery to provide a quick, convenient way to support locals affected by homelessness.

Reed announced the meters were on the way during a recent city council meeting. Called the “Feed the Meter for the Homeless” project, the City’s new initiative is made possible through a partnership with the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless (MACH).

The special parking meters are green and offer residents a way to donate directly to support MACH and central Alabama agencies working with those experiencing homelessness in Alabama’s capital city. Donations will be accepted in the forms of coins or cash at each specialized meter and by card through the ParkMobile app (zone 36999) or online payment.

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“The Feed the Meter for the Homeless initiative connects compassion with convenience by allowing Montgomery residents and visitors to support our neighbors affected by homelessness and its devastating ramifications,” Reed said in a statement. “Each donation is a hand-up to help those in need and an investment in building a better future for Montgomery and the River Region.”

For more information on Feed the Meter for the Homeless MGM, please click here.

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

1 hour ago

Cathy Randall now serving on board of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham

Dr. Cathy J. Randall, chairman of the board of Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC, is now serving as a board member for The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.

The Women’s Fund made the announcement in a recent release, detailing that Randall term’s officially began on January 1. A Birmingham native and Tuscaloosa resident, she is a longtime, prominent civic and corporate leader, as well as the legendary former director of the University Honors Programs at the University of Alabama.

Tracey Morant Adams, board chair for The Women’s Fund, said in a statement, “The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham strives to elevate and amplify women’s voices, and we are incredibly fortunate to welcome Dr. Randall to our board as she is a well-established voice in the state.”

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“Cathy’s passion for community service and her experience in building a better Alabama will be a tremendous asset for the organization,” Adams added.

Randall’s service to the state includes being immediate past chairman of the Alabama Academy of Honor and former president of the boards of directors of the American Village, the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame and the David Mathews Center of Civic Life, as well as former director of Alabama Girls State.

Additionally, she currently serves on the board of Alabama Power Company and is a former board member of Mercedes Benz USI. Randall was the co-chair of Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee and was named as a Woman of Impact by Yellowhammer Multimedia in 2018.

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

2 hours ago

Sessions responds to ‘desperate and afraid’ Byrne and Tuberville — ‘Sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point’

With Alabama’s U.S. Senate Republican primary headed into the home stretch, the field’s three front-runners are beginning to mix it up among one another.

The first significant shot came from U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who on Saturday went up on air with an ad attacking both his leading opponents: former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville has thrown a few barbs as well while on the stump, including one at Sessions that accused him of having “turned on” President Donald Trump.

In a statement given to Yellowhammer News, Sessions condemned the tone of both Byrne and Tuberville, noting their positions in recent polling and describing their tacks as “sleazy.”

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“It is unfortunate that both Tommy Tuberville and Bradley Byrne have abandoned any pretense of running a positive campaign. But it is not surprising: both candidates are trailing in the polls, and when politicians like Tuberville and Byrne are losing, they become desperate and afraid,” Sessions stated. “Both Tuberville and Byrne have quit on themselves and their campaigns. Neither can connect with voters on the merits of their ideas. It is sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point.”

Sessions warned there would be a response if this activity persisted.

“If their baseless, desperate attacks continue, they will be forcefully answered,” he continued.

The former U.S. Senator maintained that Alabamians in this primary will be focused on substantive issues.

“The key issue for Alabamians is who will most effectively and forcefully fight for their conservative values and interests, such as ending illegal immigration, protecting our jobs from unfair foreign competition, defending religious freedom, and further advancing our strong Trump economy.”

Alabama Republican voters on March 3 will cast a ballot for their preference to represent them on the general election ballot in November.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.

15 hours ago

Leaders, educators and students gather for Alabama’s 2nd Annual HBCU Summit

Alabama’s 2nd Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Summit celebrated the state’s 14 HBCUs and the value they bring to higher education across our state and country. Saturday’s event, moderated by Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, was held at Miles College in Fairfield.

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The event kicked off with a panel discussion titled “Women in the Lead: How Six Alabama HBCU Presidents Are Raising the Bar.” The session included comments from:

“Extraordinary panel of women in leadership positions,” Jones said afterwards. “I think they provide unique insights to this. Just an amazing group of women that come from varied backgrounds — they came from academics, but also from business, so it’s a unique perspective that is what is going on with HBCUs but also with higher education in general.”

The panelists touched on a number of topics, including ways to help more high school students and nontraditional students get enrolled, making the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) simpler to fill out, partnering with businesses to offer degrees and curriculum the businesses need and working together to elevate the communities they serve.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on is that the benefit of being an HBCU is that … you may not have these large classrooms like you have (elsewhere), but you have teachers that know your name, teachers that care,” Archie said. “We’re going to give you that pep talk when you need that pep talk and we’re going to help you achieve.”

It is that level of concern for students that stood out to Jones.

“These female leaders are so dynamic and so passionate about what they do,” Jones said. “They care so much about their students and their communities. They really represent the best of all HBCUs. HBCUs are the fabric of the communities and I think you saw that reflected here today.”

The summit also featured a career fair and an afternoon panel discussion titled “Student Voices: How Alabama HBCU Student-Leaders Are Lifting Up Their Campuses.” The panel, moderated by Jones, featured students from Miles College, Alabama A&M University, Shelton State Community College, Talladega College and Trenholm State Community College.

“Trying to educate and train the workforce of the 21st century is going to be a challenge,” Jones said. “We’re changing technologically, we’re changing demographically, we’re online — everything is moving in a different direction. Education has got to keep up with that, but also so do businesses. They’ve also got to start reaching out and develop those partnerships to not only train, but to mentor. I think you heard that today.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

VIDEO: Trust in government was lost long ago, Jeff Sessions leads GOP field while Jones trails all, Birmingham’s battle over monuments and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is President Donald Trump causing mistrust in government or is he exploiting that lack of trust?

— With new polls out, does Jeff Sessions have the GOP race locked up and does Doug Jones even have a chance?

— Is Birmingham’s mayor boosting his profile while continuing the fight over a Confederate monument?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Secretary of State John Merrill to discuss the latest report by the Southern Poverty Law Center that claims Alabama is suppressing voters and Merrill’s willingness to take on more responsibility at the Secretary of State’s office.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at the waste of millions of dollars Alabama municipalities spend on “public notices” because of a series of outdated laws requiring publication of voter rolls and public notices in local newspapers.

Alabama Politics This Week – 2/16/20

VIDEO: Trust in government was lost long ago, Jeff Sessions leads GOP fields while Jones trails all, Birmingham's battle over monuments has no real purpose and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Posted by Yellowhammer News on Friday, February 14, 2020

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