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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Republicans select Hubbard, Marsh as leaders





The two men who were the faces of the Republican effort to take over the Alabama House and Senate from Democrats for the first time in more than 130 years were rewarded with top leadership posts by their new majority on Thursday.
House Republicans selected Alabama Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard, who is also a state representative from Auburn, as their choice to be the next speaker of the House.
Senate Republicans voted for Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston to be the president pro tem when they organize. The pro tem is the most powerful member of the chamber who helps with assigning bills and managing the body.
With Republicans holding 22 of the 35 seats in the Senate, Marsh is expected to be approved by the full Senate when the members organize either in January or in a special session called by the governor before that.
Sen. Jabo Waggoner of Vestavia Hills was selected as majority leader.
Hubbard is considered the architect of Campaign 2010, the Republican plan to raise money and take control of the Legislature from Democrats for the first time in more than 130 years. Republicans hold 62 seats in the 105-member House.
Marsh helped raise money for the Republican effort to take control of the Legislature.
The Republicans unanimously voted for Hubbard even though there had been talk of another candidate entering the race. Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood and some other members had privately expressed interest in becoming speaker and talked to other members trying to win over their support.
But on Thursday at their meeting, no one offered up another candidate.
Members had also discussed voting for speaker and then for speaker pro tem, but then decided only to vote for speaker on Thursday, giving new members an opportunity to know the potential candidates before voting.
State Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery said they recognized with the hard work and organizational skills of Hubbard "that he would be our best choice for speaker."
Waggoner said Marsh would be an effective pro tem. He said his colleague is knowledgeable about issues, is a "good debater," and has proven leadership capabilities.
Marsh, 54, is the president of two companies, Aerospace Coating and Industrial Plating, which employee a total of about 150 people, he said. He is in his fourth term.
Marsh said he would be able to bring people together.
Both Marsh and Hubbard were elected in separate closed-door caucus meetings.
Republican governor-elect Robert Bentley said he met at his Tuscaloosa home on Wednesday with the people who expressed interest in being speaker, Hubbard and DeMarco.
He said he did not impose his will on legislators as they elected their leadership, but was trying to be a "peacemaker" and trying to "smooth things out" in the House delegation, where he felt there was contention. Bentley said he believed the situation had been resolved with a power sharing agreement.
"I really support whoever the caucus votes for," Bentley said after addressing the Senate caucus during the meeting at the Alabama Forestry Association. "It is their right to decide their leadership."
Bentley said he thought Hubbard "had done a good job" leading the party up to the election.
Hubbard, 48 and president of the Auburn Network Inc., is in his fourth term as a legislator. He has served as minority leader in the Alabama House for six years and as chairman of the state party for four years.
Hubbard said his role as chairman was to get as many Republicans elected as possible and to be the "tough guy," but he said speaker "won't be a partisan position" and is more about governing.
"I am looking forward to taking off that partisan hat," he said.
The new leaders said Thursday that their priorities would be ethics, and efforts such as tax incentives to help small businesses.
Waggoner said they did not decide on committee posts at the Thursday meeting and he said those would be decided between now and December.
Waggoner and other senators said there was no conflict between Marsh and Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, who challenged him for the pro tem position.
"They are on the same page," Waggoner said. "We are all on the same team."
Marsh said Beason would be in a leadership position "where he chooses to work."
After the original vote, the Republican senators voted again for the victor to ensure there was unanimous support for the pro tem selection.
Sen. Bryan Taylor of Prattville said he was glad to see men "approach such an important issue with mutual respect."
Sen. Dick Brewbaker of Pike Road said he was happy the caucus is "of one mind" and said it is a great step forward "for everybody to agree on the basic agenda."
Beason said he was not successful, but was glad they came back and voted unanimously for Marsh. He said he has learned that while sometimes someone might lose individually, "you have to remember it's about the cause."
Marsh said they all pledged when they ran for office that they would support the nominee of the caucus.
"Once we agree as a caucus, we're unanimous," he said.
When he addressed his colleagues on Thursday morning before they met behind closed doors, Waggoner said "I have been waiting for this (takeover) for 20 years."
"This is a dream come true for a lot of us," said Waggoner, who was previously the minority leader. Waggoner has been a member of the Legislature since 1966.
Pat Harris, assistant secretary of the Senate, spoke to the group along with Bentley and incoming lieutenant governor Kay Ivey. Waggoner and Marsh said they needed help from Harris and others because they have never been in the majority and never been through this transition.
Bentley told the members he knew the Senate had been dysfunctional, but he was hopeful.
He also said he was hopeful that the Republicans would not operate like Democrats and would not be vindictive now that they are in the majority. Bentley also said they should not serve lobbyists and the special interests.
Bentley, a two-term state legislator from Tuscaloosa, said he wants to stay in close communication with legislators and is also reaching out to Democrats. He named outgoing Democratic House Speaker Seth Hammett to his transition team.
Most of the Senate Republicans participated in a ceremonial swearing in in the historic House chamber in the Capitol on Thursday. Waggoner told people in attendance they were witnessing history.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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