Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hubbard comments on ethics reform, cronyism

(Published 9/22/07)

With Labor Day behind us, it’s time for politicians to, as Emeril Lagasse would say, "kick it up a notch." I recently spoke with Alabama Republican Party Chairman and State Rep. Mike Hubbard for his take on some recent state and national political developments.

  • On the potential for a special session for ethics reform: Gov. Bob Riley is "really debating the pros and the cons of it" and is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks, Hubbard said. A special session would force the Democrats to live up to the promises they made during last year’s campaigns, when they effectively co-opted the Republican agenda but then never got the issues out of committee, he said. "It just goes to show that they’re hypocrites and never had any intention of passing" the bills, he said of Democrats.
  • On recent news that Senate Democrats appear to be working out their differences: Hubbard noted that Alabama Education Association and Democratic heavyweight Paul Hubbert enlisted the help of a professional mediator to help bring some GOP-aligned Democrats back into the fold. But, Hubbard said, it remains to be seen whether the reconciliations will result in those Democrats voting with their party on cloture.
  • On so-called "double dipping" in the two-year college system: "I think it’s going to get even bigger," Hubbard said of the controversy. Superintendent Bradley Byrne indicated that corruption in the system "goes farther and deeper than we can imagine" and has been working with federal investigators, he said. "I think it’s big. I believe there will be indictments coming," Hubbard said. He added that any attempt to undo the new double-dipping policies legislatively would be bad policy - and bad politics. "I would hate to be a legislator and vote for a bill to undo what an elected board was established to do and also to keep a corrupt cronyism system in place," Hubbard said. Following the Legislature’s 62 percent pay raise earlier this year, "I think (it) would be a very, very dangerous vote," he said.
  • On presidential campaigns in Alabama: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, U.S. Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have been working hard in Alabama, Hubbard said, and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, who announced his candidacy just last week, is making inroads. (Sidebar: The Associated Press reported this week that although GOP delegate qualifying for the national convention just opened last month, more people have signed up to be Thompson delegates than all other candidates combined. Among those getting behind Thompson is State Rep. Mike Ball of Huntsville, who had chaired the McCain effort in Madison County.) Hubbard added that he is working to set up a party fundraiser with Thompson, similar to events attended by Romney and McCain, perhaps even in Auburn over the next few months.
  • On whether he’ll run for governor in 2010: Although "flattered" by the encouragement to run, Hubbard said his short-term focus is strengthening the state party, which he said he aims to transform from its traditional role as a "cheerleading outfit and social club" into a powerful engine driving the GOP into control in Montgomery. Key to those efforts, he said, is the major fundraising campaign he’s spearheading: a push to raise $4 million to $5 million, particularly for use in state legislative races. But Hubbard is keeping his options open, and any potential gubernatorial run, he said, would be considered through the filter of what’s best for his wife and young children. Either way, he expects to decide by late summer 2008.

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