Published: Wednesday, November 03, 2010, 6:30 AM
MONTGOMERY -- Republicans on Tuesday appeared to take control of the Alabama Legislature, with top Republicans claiming to have close to 60 seats in the 105-member House of Representatives and about 22 seats in the 35-member Senate.
"We know for certain that we're in the majority," said state Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, who also chairs the state Republican Party.
"I think it's exciting," Hubbard said. "I think the people of Alabama have spoken. They wanted change. They were tired of the Democrats with control for 136 years."
Democrats had controlled the state Legislature since 1874.
People elected or re-elected to the Legislature on Tuesday began their new four-year terms today.
The state Republican Party in its Campaign 2010 raised more than $5 million to spend on legislative races to try to win the state House and Senate.
Before Tuesday, the Senate had 20 Democrats, 14 Republicans and one independent. The House had 60 Democrats, 43 Republicans and two vacancies.
Veteran state Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, predicted Republicans will control at least 22 seats in the Senate.
He said voters all over are tired of Democrats being in control -- in Congress as well as the Alabama Legislature.
"I think a lot of it had to do with the national mood, about Democrats and their desire to grow government and increase spending and increase deficits," Waggoner said. "I think it trickled down from Washington to Montgomery."
Waggoner said many veteran Democratic senators lost Tuesday, including Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, who had been the Senate majority leader.
State Democratic Party executive director Jim Spearman said he thinks Alabama candidates got caught in a national tide of change.
"I think it was a national thing. It's just a change year. Alabama unfortunately is caught up in it," Spearman said. "We'll see how the Republicans perform."
"We put forth a good campaign in the state and we talked about issues," he said. "It's going to have to be issues that the Republicans are going to have to deal with."
Many veteran Democratic House members also lost, including Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill, who had been House majority leader and chairman of the agenda-setting House Rules committee, who lost his District 14 re-election bid to Republican Richard Baughn of Lynn.
Guin said Republicans targeted him and spent lots of money to defeat him "because I was the majority leader and the rules chairman. I'm sure I've been a thorn in their side and that's a reason they would want me gone."
Guin said a national frustration with high unemployment and other lingering effects of the great recession also swept through Alabama, and voters took it out on Democrats, who controlled the Legislature.
"People are frustrated in Alabama and nationwide, and when they're frustrated, they just want change," Guin said.
Senate races that looked ripe for Republican takeovers, according to incomplete returns Tuesday night, included:
- District 2: Republican Bill Holtzclaw of Madison led Democratic incumbent Tom Butler of Madison with 62 percent of the vote.
- District 8: Democrat Lowell Barron of Fyffe, the long-time chairman of the agenda-setting Senate Rules Committee, lost to Republican Shadrack McGill of Woodville.
- District 9: Republican Clay Scofield of Guntersville had about 69 percent of the vote against Democrat Tim Mitchell of Guntersville, in a race to replace retiring Democrat Hinton Mitchem.
- District 10: Democratic incumbent Larry Means of Attalla was losing to Republican Phillip Williams Jr. of Rainbow City.
House races that looked promising for possible Republican takeovers, according to incomplete returns Tuesday night, included:
- District 7: Republican Ken Johnson of Moulton led a close race against Democratic incumbent Jody Letson of Hillsboro.
- District 22: Republican Wayne Johnson of Huntsville had about 64 percent of the vote in a race with Democratic incumbent Butch Taylor of New Hope.
- District 26: Republican Kerry Rich of Boaz had about 60 percent of the vote in a race with Democrat Randall White of Boaz to replace retiring Democrat Frank McDaniel.
- District 81: Republican Mark Tuggle of Alexander City had about 64 percent of the vote in a race with Democratic incumbent Betty Carol Graham of Alexander City.
- District 91: Republican Barry Moore of Enterprise led Democratic incumbent Terry Spicer of Elba with about 66 percent of the vote.
- District 92: Republican Michael Jones Jr. of Andalusia, with about 52 percent of the vote, led Democrat David Darby of Andalusia, who had about 24 percent, and independent Don Cotton of Andalusia, who had about 24 percent, to replace retiring Democratic House Speaker Seth Hammett of Andalusia.
Auburn University at Montgomery political scientist Brad Moody said Alabama was late in joining other Southeastern states in having at least one chamber of the Legislature controlled by Republicans.
"It's a big deal. The Alabama Legislature just has been one of the last to switch from being Democratic controlled to Republican controlled," Moody said.
"They're going to discover it's a lot harder to govern than to be in opposition," he said.
Said Waggoner: "We've got a huge responsibility to prove to the people of this state that we're going to be different and operate the legislative branch differently than they (voters) have experienced in the last 136 years."
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