Rep. Mike Hubbard is poised to become the next Speaker of the House as the House GOP Caucus today made him its nominee for the role.
The original motion (by Spencer Collier) was that Hubbard would be the Speaker and that Paul DeMarco would be Speaker pro tem. Governor-elect Bentley, among others, had suggested this as an alternative to a prolonged fight between the two for the Speaker role.
That motion was tabled. Mike Hill then nominated Hubbard for Speaker. No other candidates for the role emerged, and Hubbard became the caucus nominee for Speaker of the House. Expect him to be elected the next Speaker in the organizing session next year as Republican legislative candidates signed a pledge to support caucus nominees. (A legislator is expected to vote for GOP caucus nominees or could otherwise be prohibited from running again as a Republican.)
Multiple contacts indicate to the Parlor that Gov. Riley had been working the phones this week on Hubbard’s behalf – especially with newly-elected legislators – hoping to ensure that Hubbard had the votes for the Speaker’s role. One participant told the Parlor that Sen. Scott Beason hoped to pull a Hail Mary today by having Gov-elect Bentley come in and ask both caucuses (House and Senate) to wait on choosing their nominees. This would allow Beason on the Senate side and DeMarco on the House side time to work some votes for the top spot in each chamber. Word got to Bentley that neither side would go for that, and Bentley did not ask.
Does DeMarco want to be Speaker pro tem? One long time legislator explains that the role can be very important or it can be nothing. “The real power of the Speaker pro tem role comes from the relationship that the person has or doesn’t have with the Speaker of the House.”
The legislator explained that previous Speaker Seth Hammett made sure that Demetrius Newton had some responsibility in the Speaker pro tem role, at least partly because he wished to maintain good relations with the Black Caucus, but before that, House Speaker Jimmy Clark gave Speaker pro tem Jim Campbell little power in the role.
For these reasons, DeMarco might choose to pass on the title especially if he feels Hubbard is unlikely to give real responsibility to his one-time challenger for the Speaker role.
July’s REDMAP Political Report [.pdf] from the Republican State Leadership Committee contends that nationally in 2010 Republicans will pick up control of four legislative chambers, that Democrats will not pick up any, and that twelve chambers controlled by Democrats (including Alabama’s House and Senate) are “solidly in play.”
The report explains, “The REDistricting MAjority Project (REDMAP) is a program of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) dedicated to winning Republican control of state legislatures that will have the most impact on Congressional redistricting in 2011.”
According to the report, three open state Senate seats in Alabama are in play, one held by a Republican and two held by Democrats. In addition, seven Democratic incumbents and two Republican incumbents hold seats are in play. The GOP needs to pick up a net of three Senate seats to control the chamber.
Let’s see… There are more than three open Senate seats, so they must be keying on SD 5 (being vacated by Republican Charles Bishop), SD 9 (Democrat Hinton Mitchem), and SD 13 (Democrat Kim Benefield) as the ones in play.
The two Republican Senate incumbents whose seats are in play must be Paul Sanford (SD 7) and Jim Preuitt (SD 11).
Now the seven Democratic incumbents whose Senate seats are in play… they must be Tom Butler (SD 2), Zeb Little (SD 4), Phil Poole (SD 21), Ted Little (SD 27), Wendell Mitchell (SD 30), and… hmm… a Republican familiar with the situation confirms that the last two are Lowell Barron (SD 8) and Larry Means (SD 10). Those two and Marc Keahey in SD 22 were the threesome I was trying to choose among for the last two spots.
On the state House side… The GOP needs to pick up a net of 8 seats. The Report offers that four open seats held by Democrats are in play in Alabama. They must mean four of these five: HD 8 (being vacated by Bill Dukes), HD 9 (Ron Grantland), HD 26 (Frank McDaniel), HD 85 (Locy Baker) and HD 92 (Seth Hammett). I suppose HD 85 is the one not being included.
The Report also contends that seats held by nine Democratic incumbents are in play. I suppose they mean Mike Curtis (HD 2), Henry White (HD 5), James Fields (HD 12), Ken Guin (HD 14), Jeff McLaughlin (HD 27), Jimmy Martin (HD 42), Lesley Vance (HD 80), Betty Carol Graham (HD 81), and Terry Spicer (HD 91).
No House seats held by Republican incumbents are indicated to be in play though I believe the argument could be made that David Grimes (HD 73) or possibly DuWayne Bridges (HD 38) are as vulnerable as, say, James Fields.
The full report is here in .pdf form. The website for the Republican State Leadership Committee is here.
If you would like to play along with the home version of the game, the 2010 House Elections Directory and Senate Elections Directory may be helpful though the ratings of the districts found there (lean Dem, likely GOP, etc.) are overdue for review.
The first session of the quadrennium doesn’t start until March, but the matter of who will be the next Speaker of the House has been a steady topic of conversation on Goat Hill since May of last year when Seth Hammett
(D – Andalusia) announced that he would not run for re-election
. Hammett served as Speaker of the House the last 12 years of his 32 year tenure in the House.
So who will be the next Speaker of the House?
If Democrats are in the majority…
If Democrats maintain control of the House, the two most likely candidates for the role are Marcel Black of Tuscumbia and House Majority Leader Ken Guin of Carbon Hill. Black appears to have the inside track. John Knight of Montgomery is also mentioned as a possibility.
To stir up the pot, there are recurring rumors that a handful of conservative Democrats – for example Jimmy Martin of Clanton, Lesley Vance of Phenix City, Richard Laird of Roanoke – would be willing to organize with Republicans for the purposes of choosing a Speaker if a Republican minority was within three or four votes of a majority. They reportedly do not care for the idea of Marcel Black or Ken Guin as Speaker and believe that the Black Caucus has undue influence on the Democratic Caucus as a whole. As the rumor goes, their conditions for crossing over to help the Republicans organize as a majority reportedly would be that they get to keep their committee chairmanships and that they would “vote for anybody but Hubbard” as Speaker.
“I have heard those rumors from time to time, but I don’t buy it,” says one source close to the legislature. “That’s talk to keep people out of your race. It comes from pressure from your constituency. Take Jimmy Martin, his seat is the most Republican district in the legislature held by a Democrat.” This source went on to explain that Democratic legislative candidates signed a pledge to support their party caucus’s nominees for leadership positions. (That’s new this year after their experiences with Jim Preuitt, Gerald Dial and others who as Democrats caucused with the GOP.) Plus, “if someone like Martin gets a hard fight for the seat in the fall, do you think he’ll be ready to come in, make nice and vote for the other party’s candidate for Speaker after all the things they said about him in the fall?”
If Republicans are in the majority…
House Minority Leader (and state GOP Chair) Mike Hubbard of Auburn has long been considered an obvious choice for the role if Republicans take the House this November. There are dissidents among House GOP members who are pushing for Paul DeMarco of Homewood to be Speaker, chief among them is Arthur Payne of Trussville. These dissidents are largely Bentley supporters. If Robert Bentley is the new Governor, his wishes could be a factor. Or not.
Looking at the numbers alone, just a handful of Republican dissidents could make the difference, as Democrats could be inclined to go along with the dissidents’ choice for Speaker and provide the necessary majority. For the sake of illustration, if the GOP has a 54-51 majority, then five Republicans could join with the 51 minority Dems to come up with another Republican Speaker not chosen by the majority of the Republican caucus.
Numbers are one thing, but as one Republican insider tells the Parlor, all Republican legislative candidates have signed the pledge to organize with the caucus, “or they risk not being able to qualify again in 2014. Don’t think that won’t happen, call Harri Anne.” (State Sen. Harri Anne Smith is running for re-election as an independent this year after not being allowed on the ballot as a Republican.)
That pledge is what leads another Montgomery insider to say DeMarco “doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell” of being Speaker while acknowledging, “Some [GOP legislators] are openly hostile to Mike Hubbard. Mike’s problem is that there is no separation between the [GOP] Caucus and the Governor’s office. He was trying to be all things to all people. You can’t be Riley’s floor leader and be the Caucus leader at the same time and do those jobs adequately. The executive branch and the legislative branch have separate roles. Should they work together? Of course. But the legislative branch has to do its job.”
It is the opinion of that Goat Hill regular that the support for DeMarco for Speaker comes from Arthur Payne and just two or three others. “Hubbard put a lot of time, money, effort into the takeover effort and somebody ought to recognize that.”
“To deal with education, Medicaid, without raising taxes, that’s going to take a statesman that’s got to stand up to the Business Council and stand up to [AEA Chief Paul] Hubbert by saying, ‘Everybody’s got to share the pain here.’ That’s going to take a guy that has been around, that has the background, the experience, the trust, the respect of business, respect of education, respect of state employees, and that’s not Paul DeMarco.”
Who then? “Well… Mike Hubbard. Or Mike Hill [R - Columbiana]. Mike Hill would tell you that he doesn’t want it. But if asked to serve I think he would out of a sense of duty. He has the temperament for the job.”
“Like Marcel Black [D - Tuscumbia]. He’ll probably be the Democrats’ nominee for Speaker [if they are in the majority]. He’s a Seth Hammett type. Not overly punitive. This is a critical turning point in the history of the state. If you are going to be Speaker for the next four years, you have to put partisan politics aside to some degree.”
“The House doesn’t want to end up like the Senate where it is a dysfunctional body. I don’t want to see it go into warfare. Marcel Black is of that temperament. Mike Hill is of that temperament. Mike Hubbard? It will come down to how Mike Hubbard will handle himself with the Republican Caucus. He has worked hard, done more than anyone to raise money, get structures in place to promote a plan to allow Republicans to take leadership positions in the House. A lot of it comes down to him.”
A Montgomery Republican weighs in on the subject, saying that because of GOP legislators’ signed pledges to support the Republican caucus’s choice for Speaker, “I think the real hope for anti-Hubbard folks is a coalition where Republicans don’t get a majority or Bentley leans on people to vote for the anti-Hubbard candidate which is DeMarco.”
Lots of ifs and maybes.
That’s what we’re hearing in the Parlor.
The funny thing about Paul Hubbert stepping down as Vice Chair of the Democratic Party yesterday is that the rampant rumor that I had heard several times in recent days prior to yesterday’s announcement was that Hubbert was stepping down as head of AEA, not from his role with the Democrats. The rumor had the additional detail that state Sen. Roger Bedford (D – Russellville) was slated to replace Hubbert at AEA. The idea was that by retiring after participating in the defeat of GOP gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne, he would be going out at the top of his game. One version was that this was going to happen in time to replace Bedford’s name on the ballot with another Democratic Senate candidate by the August deadline.
The likelihood of Hubbert soon retiring now from AEA seems diminished, as his leadership at AEA was cited as a reason for stepping down from Democratic Party leadership. If he intends to leave AEA soon, why would he step down from his role at the Democratic Party?
On the subject of the rumor, one legislator told the Parlor on Wednesday, “Yes, I have heard that rumor, but I’m skeptical. Seems like every year for the last fifteen years there is a rumor that Hubbert is going to retire. But now? In the middle of one of the most important election seasons of his career? I don’t buy it.”
Last year’s version of the rumor heard here was that Hubbert was going to step down to be replaced by retiring Speaker of the House Seth Hammett (D – Andalusia).