It’s no secret that Tuesday’s election results represented an historic and seismic shift in Alabama’s political power structure. For the first time in 136 years, Republicans won majorities – and decisive majorities, at that – in both the House and Senate, and GOP candidates captured every constitutional and statewide judicial office up for grabs.
Only two Democrats, Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Public Service Commission President Lucy Baxley, currently hold statewide office, and they did not appear on the ballot during this election cycle.
Many credit this stunning turnaround to voter dissatisfaction with the ultra-liberal policies of President Barak Obama, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an out-of-control Democrat congressional majority, and there is no doubt that it played a major factor in Tuesday’s results.
But if anger over an increasingly intrusive government created the wave, the Alabama Republican Party should be credited with working over the past 3 ½ years to raise the money and resources, assemble a world-class staff and develop and implement the plan needed to ride that wave through the ballot box and onto victory.
When I was tapped as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party almost four years ago, we launched Campaign 2010, a fundraising and campaign effort with the goal of changing control of the Alabama House and Senate. Many people scoffed at the $4 million fundraising goal we set, but, in the end, we actually raised $5 million.
The resources were used to supplement the campaigns being run by Republican candidates in dozens of legislative districts and helped fund polling operations, direct mail efforts, research and consulting support and the most aggressive “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) program in our Party’s history.
Those efforts paid off dramatically on Election Night. Democrat-controlled legislative district after district began falling like dominoes early in the evening, and as the night wore on, the good news kept coming.
Democrat House Majority Leader Ken Guin of Carbon Hill was trounced by Richard Baughn, a UPS delivery driver whose profession had been belittled by his opponent, and Senate Democrat Rules Committee Chairman Lowell Barron of Fyffe, who was considered the most powerful member of the Alabama Legislature, was sent packing, as well.
Before Tuesday, Democrats held 60 seats in the Alabama House and Republicans held 44, but today, those numbers are almost exactly reversed, with 62 GOP House Members. The Senate showed 20 Democrats and 14 Republicans on its rolls before the election, but today it is a 22 to 12 margin in favor of the GOP.
But as much as we Republicans would like to sit back and enjoy the victory, we are now faced with a much tougher, more important and unavoidable task – governing.
The newly minted House and Senate majorities met in Montgomery this week to choose their nominees for leader in both chambers. State Sen. Del Marsh (R–Anniston), who served as the Republican Party finance chairman and played a large role in our victory, was chosen to serve as the Republican Caucus’ nominee for Senate President Pro Tempore.
When Republican House members met on the same day, I was humbled beyond belief after our caucus put my name forward as its candidate for Speaker of the House. While the result will not be finalized until an organizational legislative session, I look forward to filling the role.
You can expect the new Republican majority to run the Legislature much differently than the old Democrat majority with an emphasis on openness, transparency and, above all, fairness to all who serve.
Make no mistake that our state will face severe challenges during the upcoming quadrennium. A flat-lined economy worsened by Obama’s “stimulus” and out-of-control spending by Congressional Democrats promises that we will have deep revenue shortfalls in both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets. Difficult decisions on spending will no doubt be required.
Indictments, vote-buying and wiretapped evidence of questionable actions by legislators, lobbyists and employees alike have shaken the public’s already tepid confidence in our body. Rebuilding the public trust will require the commitment of both political parties and ethical, above-reproach behavior by our members.
Either current Gov. Bob Riley or Gov.-Elect Robert Bentley are expected to call a special session on toughening ethics laws, which was the cornerstone of the Republican agenda, and that will allow us to turn our attention to our other top three priorities of jobs. . .jobs. . .and jobs.
I truly believe that the Republican Revolution we saw in Alabama on Tuesday will lead to a new way of doing things in Montgomery. It is a new day for Alabama and a new hope among our citizens that state government can soon be worthy of the great men, women and families that it serves. For that, we can all be thankful.