Montgomery has been abuzz for weeks with talk of resignations and powerful state Rep. Jay Love, chairman of the House education budget, became the latest Alabama Republican politician to announce his resignation on Wednesday.
His departure also creates a variety of scenarios about who will follow Love as budget chairman and how that leaves a potential matchup between Love’s successor and Rep. Joe Hubbard in 2014.
Love, R-Montgomery, will be the second high-profile member of Speaker Mike Hubbard’s leadership team to leave in the first term of the Republican majority and there are rumblings about more. Or at least about other lawmakers not running for another term.
After waiting more than 100 years to get into the majority, some Republicans do not seem too anxious to stay in the House for long.
Love joins former House Rules Chairman Blaine Galliher, who left a year ago to join the cabinet of Gov. Robert Bentley, in leaving House leadership. And another committee chairman might not be far behind, which does not look good for the speaker.
Love joins Secretary of State Beth Chapman and U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, who are leaving their posts for more lucrative gigs either in the private sector or in governmental affairs – using their connections they have developed in public office to benefit them in post-office private life. And, for some, they are even going to work for those often-criticized special interests they complained about for years.
They are all stepping down within days of one another with Chapman on July 31, Love on Aug. 1 and Bonner on Aug. 15.
There have been a lot of people asking questions about whether there is any coincidence that three prominent Alabama Republicans are resigning in such a short time. Obviously, it does not look good for this many officials to step down in this short span, especially since two will lead to special elections just a year before the 2014 election at taxpayer expense. But I do not see any connection. I do not think Bonner, Chapman and Love are in some common inner circle or lunch group. But I could be wrong. If not, where’s the connection?
But the continued loss of leadership does create some voids at the State House, where there is not a lot of senior leadership in Republican ranks because there are so many young members after the sweeping Republican wins in 2010. That obviously does not mean there are not members qualified to step into Love’s role. And whether they are qualified or not, I am sure there is no shortage of lawmakers who have reached out to the speaker recently to express their interest in being budget chairman, a very powerful but very stressful role.
The timing of the Bonner, Chapman and Love departures is interesting. Why not finish their terms? Bonner and Chapman indicated these were once-in-a-lifetime opportunities they might not find again. Chapman’s “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” – we have since found out – is working on contract in governmental affairs for the Alabama Farmers Federation. Really? This is not criticism of the federation, a powerful entity in Montgomery with deep pockets, but a dream job for a woman who was elected statewide three times with ambitions for higher office? Chapman also said people had approached her about lobbying, but that she had not discussed lobbying with anyone. Interesting. She was also clear that money was a big part of her decision – do not be shocked if it played a very significant role in the decisions of all three – and would help her to put her sons and her grandchild through college as the sole provider for her family after the death of her husband. Chapman also, unlike Bonner and Love, could not run for another term as secretary of state because of state laws that limit two consecutive terms in that office.
Bonner is going to work for the University of Alabama System as its top governmental affairs and economic development guru, with his pay jumping from $174,000 to $350,000. And he will earn some congressional retirement.
Love said he was resigning with more than a year left in his term to “promote education reforms” and “pursue various business opportunities,” which appear to an observer that they would have been available after the 2014 election but maybe there was an immediate void that needed to be filled or opportunity that he felt he had to take advantage of. He would not be more specific, stating he was not ready to release the details yet. Love declined to say if he was looking at a lobbying opportunity, but said the opportunity was “more of an advocacy role.”
In the situations with Love and Chapman, there is one undeniable fact. Either these public officials sought out private sector jobs or the private sector came to them and they were willing to listen.
Speaker Hubbard has time to find a successor for Love as chairman. The Legislature returns to session in January, although there will obviously be meetings and work on the budget ahead of time to prepare for the session. There will be no shortage of interest from lawmakers and lobbyists, who are undoubtedly letting Hubbard know how they feel about potential successors.
While Love more than likely could have left his seat next year to “promote education reforms,” his early departure will likely give Republicans an improved advantage in his soon to be former seat.
Republicans, when they were redrawing legislative districts after the 2010 Census, essentially eliminated the central Montgomery district of Democratic Rep. Joe Hubbard and moved his district number to fast-growing Shelby County. Candidates will run in those redrawn districts for the 2014 election and will begin representing those redrawn districts after that election.
Joe Hubbard would either have to decide to not run for another term or likely run against an incumbent.
Hubbard has since found a house in his current district that will also be in the revamped District 74 currently represented by Love. But the revamped district would not be the one used for the special election and Hubbard is not in the current district. So, he is not in a position to run in the special election for Love’s seat.
If Love finished his term and opted not to run again in 2014, Hubbard would be the incumbent for the 2014 election. If there is a special election, then there is a Republican incumbent who has already served a term by the time of the 2014 election. A decent Republican would have an advantage in the right-leaning district.
Hubbard has not been subtle in his criticism of Love, especially since redistricting. So, I doubt Love would have any remorse about creating a more difficult race for Hubbard next year.
Bentley’s staff has indicated, with the Love seat, that he would call a special election as soon as legally possible. Bentley realizes he would help lawmakers in his party by calling a special election to get another Republican to serve as soon as possible in the 2014 legislative session, limiting the time Republicans were a member down.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen