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Republicans make strides to hold majority majority

By By Steve Flowers
Earlier in the year, when qualifying began for this year's election, the fact that Republican legislative candidates were required to sign an agreement to support a Republican candidate for Speaker received widespread attention for a few days, but has been swept under the rug ever since. This first of its kind pledge to support the choices of the House and Senate Republican caucuses for leadership positions in the new Legislature was approved by the party's 21-member steering committee to make sure Republican legislators vote in unison for the choices of the House and Senate Republican caucuses. The pledge also commits them to vote for the operating rules recommended by the Republican caucuses.
In January 2007, the new Legislature will meet to elect its top officers, including the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate. They will also set the rules for their operation for the next four years.
This unheard of pledge which binds a legislator to vote lock step the way their party leader dictates renders him or her useless in the process. Furthermore, it disassociates the legislator from their first obligation, which is to their district and constituents who elected them. A legislator or Senator should be loyal first and only to the people who elected them. Republican legislators come from diverse districts. Their districts have unique needs and beliefs. Essentially what a Republican legislator from Mobile is saying to his Mobile district is however Mike Hubbard from Auburn wants me to vote that's how I will vote or a Senator from Montgomery thumbs his nose at the people of Montgomery or Elmore County who elected him and saying to them I am going to vote like Jabo Waggoner from Vestavia Hills tells me how to vote.
It does not take a rocket scientist to tell you who is going to have more clout when they go down to the Governor's office to ask for a road or bridge for their district. You guessed right. The Governor will look at the legislator from Mobile or Senator from Montgomery as a simpleton or a pawn of the Republican leadership. They have in essence relinquished their power to Mike Hubbard from Auburn or Jabo Wagner from Vestavia. Their leadership will wield the power. They have abandoned their ability to negotiate for their constituents. You need to ask a GOP legislative candidate when he asks for your vote if he wants to represent you or the Republican Party. If they want to be like Britain and have people just vote for the Party and the member elected is just a pawn in the process, then they ought to make all the Republican legislative candidates sign a pledge to change their name to Paul or Polly Parakeet because that is all they are is parakeets. They have rendered themselves and their districts irrelevant in the process.
One Republican State Senator Harri Ann Smith showed earlier in the year that she knows how to play politics when she sent rumors throughout the state that she planned to run for Governor. Polls indicated that she could not win and probably the best she could do even if she spent a million dollars was to get about 20% of the GOP Primary vote. However, if she got that 20% it could throw the race into a runoff thus causing Gov. Bob Riley a lot of trouble. She played that card to the hilt. She came out in support of Riley early on and insiders say her payoff was a commitment from Riley to make the I-10 connector that Dothan has longed for for decades a priority. This extortion by Smith shows that she is developing as an effective State Senator. She has been thought of as an ineffective ideologue her first eight years. However, if she has signed the pledge and if she does not become the Republican caucus leader her move will be for naught. She will just be another parakeet.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us <http://www.steveflowers.us/>.