Republicans select Gaston for House leadership post
TUSCALOOSA -- Republicans selected Rep. Victor Gaston of Mobile as their choice to be speaker pro tem of the Alabama House of Representatives.
Gaston, who retired as an assistant principal with Mobile public schools and who helps manage his family's timber and farm business, is the longest serving Republican in the House. He was elected in 1982 and was one of eight Republicans at the time.
House Republicans selected Gaston on Tuesday during a closed-door caucus meeting during legislative orientation at the University of Alabama law school.
Gaston, 67, said the role of the speaker pro tem is largely based on the speaker and the membership. He said his goal would be to work with the speaker and legislators to achieve their goals.
Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn, who previously received the vote of the Republican majority to be their choice as speaker, said the speaker does determine the duties of the pro tem and he wants Gaston to be a liaison with all of the members of the Legislature and help them with any issues, suggestions or questions. He said Gaston could also be a liaison with the Senate.
Gaston has a lot of institutional knowledge and could be a great help to members, Hubbard said. He said there is not one Republican and probably not one member of the entire House that Gaston has not helped, inspired, or encouraged.
Gaston "has an enormous amount of respect in our caucus and in the entire House," Hubbard said.
The full House, because of the large Republican majority, is expected to vote Hubbard and Gaston as leaders in the chamber when they begin a special session Wednesday to address ethics reform.
Some lawmakers had discussed Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood as a candidate for the pro tem position because he had expressed interest in becoming speaker of the House. Gov.-elect Robert Bentley met with Hubbard and DeMarco after the election to try to work out a power sharing agreement.
Gaston, who represents west central Mobile County, said his selection was overwhelming. He said he did not seek out the position of pro tem, but was encouraged to consider it by several members.
Republicans took strong control of the House in the Nov. 2 election, giving them the majority for the first time in more than 130 years.
Gaston, when asked about the dramatic Republican gains since he was elected in 1982, said "any word you can use for great change and great exciting change would be applicable." He said he has watched the Republicans grow "step by step" and the November election the “step turned into a flood.”
Gaston has been a delegate to the Republican National Convention six times.
He retired as a principal in 1997. Gaston was a teacher before serving as a principal.
-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen