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GOP Dominates in Alabama Legislature


Republicans strengthened their grip on the Alabama Statehouse in a Tuesday election sweep that saw House Speaker Mike Hubbard win re-election despite his indictment on felony ethics charges.

The GOP built upon the existing supermajority won in 2010 and increased their numbers in both chambers. Republicans will hold nearly 70 percent of the seats, a formidable number that will allow them to cut off filibusters and push through legislation if they stick together as a caucus.

"It's gratifying. It's humbling that the people of the state, and of course the people of my district, would have enough confidence in us to be able to hold this majority," Hubbard said Tuesday night.

Republican defeated several Democratic incumbents in the 105-member House of Representatives to boost their numbers from 66 to 72 seats, according to unofficial returns. In the 35-member Alabama Senate, Republicans went from holding 23 seats to at least 25.

A lion of the Alabama Democratic Party is facing possible defeat in the single state Senate race that remained undecided Wednesday morning.

Seven-term state senator Roger Bedford of Russellville trailed by just 60 votes to Republican Larry Stutts. The election's razor-thin margin will almost certainly trigger an automatic recount under Alabama election law. Republicans had futilely targeted Bedford's district for more than decade but were never unable to unseat the fiery Democrat.

It was a disappointing night for Democrats who had sought to regain a foothold in Montgomery.

Scottsboro Rep. John Robinson, a 20-year veteran of the House, was unseated by GOP challenger Tommy Hanes Jr., a former fireman. Another notable Democrat, former state Sen. Larry Means of Attalla, was stymied in his bid for a comeback. Republican Sen. Phil Williams defeated Means, who had sought to regain his Senate seat after losing to Williams in 2010.

The election was particularly rough on white Democrats who were up against Southern voters' drift to the GOP and new legislative districts drawn by Republicans.

Republicans picked up two Senate districts at opposite ends of the state that were formerly held by Democrats. Sen. Marc Keahey of Grove Hill and Sen. Tammy Irons of Florence, both Democrats, did not seek re-election after their districts were redrawn in a way that favored GOP candidates. Republicans took both Senate districts on Tuesday. Republicans said the new district lines, used for the first time in this election, correct years of gerrymandering by Democrats.

"I think they are fairer," Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said of the plan. Marsh, who defeated a well-financed challenger, said his district was more difficult for a Republican.

However, Democrats argued the lines packed black voters into majority-minority districts making it difficult for Democrats, particularly white Democrats, to win outside those minority districts. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in a challenge filed by black lawmakers.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford said last week that Democrats had good candidates on Tuesday's ballot but were stifled by an inability to raise funds as deep-pocketed donors flock to the GOP.

"The money is not there anymore. They are outspending us 15-to-1," Ford said.

Republicans swept to legislative victory in 2010, winning a supermajority in both houses and ending 135 years of control by Democrats. As they sought to defend that majority this year, incumbents faced first a slate of primary challengers and then serious criminal charges filed against Hubbard, the architect of their successful 2010 strategy and a name closely associated with the state GOP brand.

A special grand jury seated by the attorney general's office indicted Hubbard last month on 23 charges accusing him of using the speakership and his former post as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party to reap financial rewards for himself and his companies.

Hubbard has maintained his innocence and called the charges politically motivated. On Tuesday, he defeated a longshot Democratic challenger by 19 points.

"After what we've been through the last couple of weeks, it means a lot for the voters to come through and see through it and see it for what it is, which is politics at its worst," Hubbard said.

The election behind him, Hubbard now moves on to the election for speaker and the legal battle in front of him. He is scheduled to be arraigned next week in a Lee County courtroom.

Hubbard is seeking another four years at the helm of the House. Republicans meet Thursday to discuss their leadership choices. The House of Representatives will officially elect a speaker when they meet in January for an organizational session.

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