Hammet plans to step down
Published 5:03 pm Wednesday, June 10, 2009
On the last day of the Legislative session I was visiting with some friends in the Senate chambers on the seventh floor of the statehouse. When it became apparent they were finished with their business for the year and were going to adjourn the session sine die in about an hour, I meandered two floors down to the House chamber. My old House seat was empty, so I sat down in my old chair to visit with Alan Boothe from Troy, who took over my House seat when I retired in 1998.
Boothe said, “I think you are going to be here in your old seat to see an historic announcement.” At that moment, House Speaker Seth Hammett asked Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton to take over the speaker’s chair for him so that he could go to the well and make an announcement. Seth announced he would not seek reelection to his House seat from Covington County in 2010. Therefore, he would not be speaker again. It was a nostalgic moment. Seth and I are old friends. We sat by each other in the House for 16 years. In fact, we sat by each other when the House chamber was in the old Capitol.
Seth’s announcement reminded me of a day 23 years earlier. It was in the closing days of the 1986 Legislative session. Gov. George Wallace’s aides wheeled him into the old House chamber near Seth’s and my desk. We knew what was coming. Seth and I stood close by as Wallace announced his retirement from politics.
Even though he could have constitutionally sought an unprecedented fifth term as governor, with tears in his eyes Wallace gave his “I bid you a fond adieu” speech. It was moving the same as Seth’s speech on May 15 was to those of us who have followed and participated in politics for all of our lives.
Seth Hammett will have served 32 years when he retires in 2010. He noted that he was first elected at age 31 and he is now 62. Therefore, he has been a member of the state House of Representatives for half his entire life. Hammett would have easily won reelection to his House seat and would have probably been re-elected speaker. If so, he would have broken the record for longevity as speaker. He has been the presiding officer of the House for 12 years.
The race is now on for speaker. The House membership will elect their speaker in January 2011 after the 2010 Legislative elections. If the Democrats remain in the majority, Tuscumbia Rep. Marcel Black will be the favorite. If the Republicans were to gain control, Auburn Rep. Mike Hubbard would probably be speaker.
Steve Flowers is a
political columnist who served 16 years in the