Hubbert's power questioned

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2008

By Staff
Many of you have asked the question why Paul Hubbert is such a power in state government. In addition, people are curious as to whether his power is perceived or overrated by the media or whether it is real. The answer to the second question is yes, it is real.
Hubbert is unquestionably the most powerful person in state government when it comes to education dollars, which now account for two-thirds of our state tax dollars. Hubbert has total control over these funds and all the inherent power surrounding these public dollars. The Governor's input is essentially swept aside.
Bob Riley won a convincing second term in 2006 and was obviously the choice of the majority of Alabamians to lead our state government.  Most people expect the Governor to have significant impact upon appropriations and the organization of our state school system.  However, Dr. Hubbert has usurped this power and made Riley irrelevant in the process. The cartoons and jokes that allude to Hubbert directing the Legislature on how to vote on education issues with a thumbs up or thumbs down signal from his balcony perch overlooking the House chamber are accurate. You can observe the orchestration today when an education related issue is being voted on. A majority of House members will look up into the gallery to get their direction from Hubbert on whether to vote yes, thumbs up, or no, thumbs down. It happens everyday.
The AEA's support is essential to a legislative race. Many legislators owe their seat more to Hubbert than to any Governor. Hubbert was there when they were first elected probably 20 years earlier with money, campaign workers, polling and advice and he has been there with the same resources every four years since the legislator's first race making sure that the legislator was reelected.
Hubbert's team of support provides enough money, workers and advice to win by itself. The legislator knows that if he is loyal to Hubbert, Hubbert will be loyal to him. Dr. Hubbert understands the golden rule of politics and that is you stay true to your friends through thick and thin, especially the ones that Dr. Hubbert refers to as those that will help you “when your ox gets in the ditch.” The legislator in turn believes in the adage, “you dance with the one that brung you.”
How did Paul Ray Hubbert from Hubbertville in rural Fayette County garner this much influence? I will continue this remarkable story in next week's column and highlight the pivotal year and battle that made Paul Hubbert the King. It was 1971 and the David, Hubbert, slayed the Goliath of Alabama politics, George Wallace, and Hubbert still remains the King of Goat Hill today.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist who served 16 years in the Legislature.