From left to right: Representatives Phil Williams, Lynn Greer, Victor Gaston, Mac McCutcheon, and Steve Clouse are some of the names being floated as potential candidates to replace the fallen Mike Hubbard as Alabama House Speaker.
By Tyler Pruett
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Less than a week ago, Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard was convicted on 12 out of the 23 original felony charges of ethics violations. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each charge, which could be served concurrently. The now former Speaker is set to be sentenced on July 8. Now, the Alabama House of Representatives must get on with replacing Hubbard. But don’t expect a permanent solution to materialize anytime soon.
As House Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile) has stepped into the role as acting Speaker until a new Speaker is selected,. Gaston has served as Speaker Pro Tem since 2010. He also serves on several powerful committees, including Ways and Means, Utilities and Infrastructure committees. He’ll be serving in the position at least until the Alabama Legislature returns to session. In the interim he will have power to make committee assignments along with chair and vice chair appointments.
The Alabama House will not return until its next regular session in February. Only a special session called by Gov. Bentley could speed up the process, but it’s unlikely he’ll choose to reconvene the Legislature this year. Doing so would give the Legislature more time and opportunity to act on his impeachment if a Special Legislative Session is called. The increasing ethical concerns in Montgomery in the aftermath of Hubbard’s conviction will likely embolden legislators who are pushing for impeachment or recalling Bentley as governor.
Names are already being thrown into the hat for consideration to replace Hubbard. Early favorites include Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) and Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Huntsville). Greer is currently in his second term representing Alabama House District 2. Greer is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and chairs the Utilities and Infrastructure Committees. McCutcheon currently chairs the Rules Committee and is in his third term in the House serving House District 25.
Representatives Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), David Stanbridge (R-Hayden), and Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) have also made their interest known in the position. Williams (not to be confused with Alabama Sen. Phil Williams of the same name who represents a portion of DeKalb County in the Alabama Senate—Rep. Phil Williams, not Sen. Phil Williams) has multiple influential committee assignments including Ways and Means, Education, and Technology. Clouse has stated he will run for the position if acting Speaker Gaston chooses not to seek the Speaker’s chair.
Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) has made it known that she would also like to be considered for the Speaker's position. Although Hubbard’s conviction will mark a power shift in Montgomery, it’s unlikely that the next Speaker will come from the other side of the aisle, however.
Many Montgomery insiders believe the job is Gaston’s to lose. As it is unlikely the Legislature will convene before Feb. 7, Gaston will have ample time to make key appointments that could strengthen his position in the House, improve existing relationships and alliances and potentially garner enough favor to retain the position permanently. Gaston has not confirmed that he will run for the position when the House reconvenes, but has begun to hint at that desire in recent statements to the media.
Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), a name mentioned early as a potential candidate to replace Hubbard has already withdrawn himself from consideration. Poole was initially considered a strong contender for the position.
While the House considers Hubbard's replacement, the governor’s office has set the dates for the special election to replace Hubbard in his district. The Primary will be held on Sept. 13, 2016, with a General Election date of Nov. 29, 2016 The qualifying deadline for the special election for Hubbard’s vacant House seat is July 14.