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Knives come out: Birmingham Rep. Jim Carns already angling for Speakership

Rep. Jim Carnes (R-Birmingham)
Rep. Jim Carns (R-Birmingham)

As news broke on Monday afternoon that Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard had been indicted on 23 felony public corruption charges, one of his House Republican colleagues was already launching a bid to succeed Hubbard in what is arguably the state’s most powerful office.

Rep. Jim Carns (R-Birmingham) began peppering members of the House Republican caucus with phone calls and text messages within minutes of Hubbard’s arrest.

The House GOP had already been planning an organizational meeting for Nov. 6th, two days after the upcoming General Elections. At that meeting, they would come to an agreement on who they would all back for Speaker and discuss other caucus business.

But on Monday, Carns began trying to rally his colleagues for a meeting Oct. 30th to win their support going into the full caucus gathering.

Members of the House who spoke on condition of anonymity told Yellowhammer that Carns told them he had roughly a dozen members of the House who’d agreed to hear him out at Jim & Nicks BBQ in Homewood the evening of the 30th.

Carns confirmed his efforts to rise to the Speakership in a phone call with Yellowhammer Monday evening.

“This has been such a headline churning issue for the last year, so we all figured something would happen, we just didn’t know what,” Carns said of the Hubbard indictment. “It was obvious there would be some fallout from all the work the grand jury was doing. And I’ve said all along if he didn’t get indicted I would probably have to support him, but if did get indicted, I would put my name in the ring for Speaker of the House. That’s what I’m doing now.”

Carns served in the Alabama House from 1990 to 2006, a time in which Republicans were in the minority and carried very little weight in the Legislature. He was elected to the Jefferson County Commission in 2006, then returned to the House in 2011.

When asked if he believed the caucus would continue to back Hubbard, who will not be resigning his seat during the trial, or if others would make a play, Carns said he was unsure.

“It’s too early to say who all will run for Speaker,” Carns said. “I haven’t reached out to everybody yet, but I’m working on it. As I’ve come in contact with people, I’ve told them I would be running. I haven’t put put together a plan or a team yet, but a lot of folks have come talk to me. We’ve got a lot of questions to answer before the Nov. 6th meeting. There will be some people meeting with me about those things. There will probably be other people meeting, as well. It’s going to take a while for people to get their equilibrium and understand the gravity of what’s happening. I believe I can lead us forward.”

There was a massive influx of new Republicans who came into the Legislature during the years Carns left the House to serve on the Jefferson County Commission. As a result, even though he served for 16 years in the body, it is hard to say if the freshmen legislators view him in the same light they do other veteran lawmakers, since he was not there upon their arrival in 2010. And that’s key. The 17 freshman Republicans elected in 2010 and the 7 elected in Special Elections since then will play a significant role in deciding who the Speaker of the House will be for the next four years. On top of that, there could be another 15 or more incoming freshman after election day in two weeks. How will they respond to Carns’ push for the gavel being launched before the General Election has even taken place?

Needless to say, the Nov. 6th meeting of the Alabama House Republican caucus could get tense.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims