8 years ago

Power & Influence 40: Names 1 to 5

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.

For names 31-40 click here. For names 21-30 click here. For names 11-20 click here. For names 6-10 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.

If you have thoughts or comments, please share them with us on Facebook or Twitter or in the comment section below.


Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard Yellow Hammer Politics

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.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Yellow Hammer Politics

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.

Speaker of Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard Yellow Hammer Politics

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.


President Pro Tem Alabama Senate Del Marsh Yellow Hammer Politics

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.


Business Council of Alabama BCA Bill Canary Yellow Hammer 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.


Alabama Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner Yellow Hammer Politics

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.


Alabama Power President and CEO Charles McCrary Yellow Hammer Politics

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.

9 hours ago

Veteran helped by Alabama deputies could reconnect with son

JASPER, ALA. (AP) — A social media post about a veteran wearing an oxygen mask while walking down a road may help connect the man to his estranged son.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that the Gulf War veteran attempted to walk about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Walker County to Huntsville for an appointment Wednesday because his car wasn’t working.

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A Walker County deputy worked with other deputies to transport him to and from his appointment at the VA. News reports identify him as Gerald Baldwin.

The post has more than 150,000 shares. Baldwin’s son Lance in Pennsylvania saw the story and recognized his father. He told news outlets Sunday that the two hadn’t spoken in about five years. He now plans to reach out to his father.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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Editor’s note — The aforementioned Facebook post is as follows:

9 hours ago

Auburn’s famed golden eagle Nova possibly in early stages of heart failure

Auburn University’s widely known golden eagle Nova, War Eagle VII, could potentially be in the early stages of heart failure, according to university veterinarians and a press release issued last week.

“The 20-year-old male eagle received a biannual checkup in early October at the College of Veterinary Medicine followed by another echocardiogram Oct. 31.,” the statement stated. “In 2017 he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a chronic disease of the heart, and was sidelined from flying at football games to reduce stress.”

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“Nova’s condition has been medically managed and he has remained stable during the past two years, however, during his October exam, we observed decreased systolic function and enlarged vessels in his liver,” said Dr. Seth Oster, faculty avian veterinarian for the college’s Southeastern Raptor Center. “This could be an indication of the early stages of heart failure.”

Veterinarians also said they increased Nova’s dosage in a new round of treatments and that they will monitor how he responds.

“We will know more after we see how Nova responds to his latest rounds of treatment,” Oster said.

According to Andrew Hopkins, the assistant director of raptor training and education, Nova’s appearance at the Southeastern Raptor Center’s educational programs will be limited as veterans continue to monitor his progress.

The statement released on Nova’s health also provided background information on Nova.

It read, “Nova was hatched in 1999 at the Montgomery Zoo and was non-releasable due to human imprinting. He came to Auburn in 2000, made his first pre-game flight in 2004 and was designated War Eagle VII in 2006. He has helped promote wildlife conservation and awareness at almost 2,000 educational programs at the raptor center and at schools and conservation events around the Southeast. Raptor center staff conduct almost 300 presentations annually.”

Aurea, a 5-year-old female golden eagle, and Spirit, a 23-year-old female bald eagle, have both made pregame flights this season in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

9 hours ago

Final resting places for Alabama veterans

Like soldiers at attention, battalions of white markers stretch out across the fields in perfect formation.

Below them are soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. They are compatriots linked by more than common soil. Some died in service; many others survived the decades before finally falling to old age. All sacrificed.

Alabama has four cemeteries dedicated to the men and women who have worn American military uniforms. They are shrines and places of reflection to the people who fought at places like Chateau-Thierry, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Incheon, Saigon, Baghdad and Kabul.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs oversees Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo and Fort Mitchell National Cemetery near Phenix City. The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs manages cemeteries under the same VA regulations in Spanish Fort and Mobile, although the one in Mobile is at capacity and open only to surviving spouses.

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Burials and headstones at all the cemeteries are free for the veteran, spouse and dependent children. That includes in-ground casket or cremation burials or in a columbarium for urns containing cremated remains.

“Everything from the gate to the headstone is free. That saves a family anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 at a minimum,” said Todd Newkirk, assistant director at Fort Mitchell and interim director at Alabama National.

Newkirk, scanning the pristine grounds of Alabama National, believes there is a more plausible explanation why service members choose to call a veterans cemetery their final resting place.

“You are among your brothers and sisters at arms,” Newkirk said. “You are a veteran, and this is a place that honors veterans 24/7. And as long as there is a United States of America, this place is going to be taken care of. People are going to be here every day, all day, taking care of the cemetery.”

Reminders of sacrifice

Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Bourland was the first active-duty serviceman to be buried at Alabama National, which was dedicated in 2008. The Birmingham native, who flew helicopter missions in Iraq, died in February 2010 when the hotel where he was staying during a humanitarian mission in Haiti collapsed during an earthquake. Bourland was survived by his wife and two sons, then ages 3 and 1.

“Our daughter-in-law was the one that made the decision whether he would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery (near Washington, D.C.) or here,” said Bourland’s mother, Adrienne Bourland. “I am very glad she made the choice for him to come back to Alabama. It has allowed us be involved in the ceremonies and the activities.”

Adrienne Bourland and her husband live in St. Clair County and are members of a volunteer support staff that helps conduct special ceremonies at the cemetery on veterans and memorial holidays. Kenneth Bourland’s family has moved back to the Birmingham area from Florida, where they were living at the time of his death.

Alabama cemetery headstones, carved from Sylacauga marble, include a person’s name, rank, branch of service, date of birth and death, and a symbol of religion.

“The last two or three spaces are for an optional inscription that the next of kin is able to select,” Newkirk said. “They can put whatever they want on those lines as long as it is appropriate.”

‘I see America here’

Fort Mitchell National was established 31 years ago at the urging of U.S. Rep. Bill Nichols and state Sen. Joseph Smith of Phenix City, both of whom contended that Alabama deserved a national cemetery. Their argument was fortified by Fort Benning, Georgia, being just across the Chattahoochee River from Alabama.

“Joseph Smith was actually the first person buried here,” Newkirk said. “He actually died before it opened, and his wife had him disinterred (from another cemetery) and reinterred here.”

Alabama National and Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery were created in 2008 and 2012, respectively, to meet the burial needs of World War II and Korean War veterans.

All three cemeteries adjoin historical grounds. Alabama National is adjacent to American Village, an educational facility that contains replicas of historical structures. Fort Mitchell National Cemetery abuts a replica of the early American outpost and link to the Federal Road that opened Alabama to settlers. The Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery is near Fort Blakely, which was the site of the largest Civil War battle in Alabama.

Each cemetery conducts commemorative ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and many volunteers lay wreaths on the headstones at Christmas. Those ceremonies are generally conducted by support committees, veteran groups and Scouts.

Newkirk, however, said he can’t help but reflect on the sacrifices of those entombed every time he drives in the cemetery entrance.

“This is the best job I ever had in my life,” he said. “I did 21 years active duty in the Air Force and 15 years as a civilian in the Army, and so it is special to me. I see America here. I see my brother and sisters. It’s just an honor to be here.”

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 hours ago

Republican AL-02 candidate Jessica Taylor signs term limits pledge

Prattville’s Jessica Taylor, a conservative Republican candidate in Alabama’s Second Congressional District, in recent days announced she has signed the U.S. Term Limits Congressional Pledge.

In signing the pledge, Taylor committed — if elected — to cosponsoring and voting for the U.S. Term Limits amendment, which would enact limits of three terms maximum for U.S. House members and two terms maximum for U.S. senators.

In a statement, Taylor said, “We will never drain the swamp if we keep sending the same old career politicians to D.C. election after election.”

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“As a conservative, I am deeply frustrated by the out-of-control spending, backroom deals, and broken promises that are the status quo in Washington,” she concluded. “We need term limits to empower voters and return our government to citizen legislators who can bring fresh ideas and conservative reform to Washington. As your next congresswoman, I will go toe-to-toe with socialists like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and their liberal ‘squad’ to fight for our conservative Alabama values.”

Taylor is running in a crowded GOP primary to succeed U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02), who is not seeking reelection to a sixth term.

Other qualified candidates include Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman, former Alabama Attorney General Troy King and former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise).

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

11 hours ago

Byrne campaign rolls out veterans coalition on Veterans Day

Congressman Bradley Byrne’s (AL-01) U.S Senate campaign on Monday — Veterans Day — announced the launch of their “Veterans for Byrne” coalition, which includes more than 400 veterans from across Alabama.

In a statement, Byrne said, “Nothing means more to me than having the support from those who have served our great country.”

“Our veterans have fought to defend the values that make America great, and I promise to do everything I can do to ensure those same values are protected and that the ones who have given so much to our country receive the benefits and support they deserve,” he added.

The statewide coalition chair is Lt. General Charles “Chick” Cleveland of Montgomery and the vice chair is Colonel John Reitzell of Huntsville.

Each branch of the U.S. military is represented by a chairman, and each region of the Yellowhammer State is represented by a veterans steering committee.

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Cleveland is one of America’s “Fighter Aces,” the country’s most distinguished fighter pilots. He earned his “Ace” status in the Korean War, in which he shot down five enemy aircraft in the dangerous region known as “MIG Alley.”

“No one has been a stronger fighter for our Alabama veterans than Bradley Byrne,” Cleveland stated. “When it comes to supporting our troops and veterans, Bradley Byrne is the only man for the job.”

Reitzell added, “While some people in this race have attacked President Trump for not doing enough for our veterans, Bradley Byrne has been on the frontlines with President Trump to get better care and clean up the mess at the VA. Talk is cheap. Bradley is actually getting the job done for our veterans, and I’m proud to support him.”

You can read statements from the respective branch coalition chairs and view the members of each regional steering committee here.

Byrne is running in the crowded Republican primary to unseat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL). Other qualified GOP candidates include former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Secretary of State John Merrill and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs).

Byrne has previously unveiled a farmers coalition supporting his campaign, as well as a 67-county grassroots leadership team.

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