Racing for the Speaker’s gavel

Racing for the Speaker’s gavel

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

“Who’s going to be the next Speaker of the House?”

Aside from the May 24 election fallout, it’s one of the most frequently asked questions in Montgomery right now.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon is retiring from the Legislature after four terms in the House and seven years as Speaker.

There are two dominant contenders to take his place: House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, and veteran lawmaker and House General Fund committee chair Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark.

While another candidate could emerge, Clouse and Ledbetter have been openly campaigning for the House’s top spot since last year. The House Republican Caucus will likely make its speaker selection soon after the November elections. A new speaker won’t be formally selected until the full chamber meets for an organizational session.

Both men are well liked and respected within the caucus, as multiple members attested to Alabama Daily News.

In his role as House Majority Leader, Ledbetter has worked closely with House Republicans, including freshmen in 2019, and built relationships.

Clouse, as General Fund chair, also has a lot of reach, though fiscal talks might be a bit more formal and limited than what Ledbetter gets to have in his role.

Clouse said that he’s not pitting himself against Ledbetter when talking to current or potential colleagues.

“It’s a matter of making a case for myself and my 28 years (in the House), particularly with dealing with the General Fund budget over the last 10 years and my experience and institutional knowledge,” Clouse said.

He said he’s been talking to members about what’s important to them and their districts and how he might be able to help them.

Ledbetter is having similar conversations.

“The goal (as speaker) is to make everyone in our body successful in their districts and for our state,” Ledbetter said. He also points to last session “and probably the most conservative agenda that the caucus has put forth.”

“We certainly need to continue that work,” he said.

Both Ledbetter and Clouse chair political action committees that made significant donations to House candidates in this election cycle. Ledbetter’s Alabama House Majority PAC, which he’s been chairman of since 2017, spent about $181,000 on about two dozen candidates and several consulting companies.

The Clouse Leadership PAC, created in July 2021, has spent about $66,000 on 22 candidates.

The new speaker will be chosen after the November election when the Legislature gathers for its organizational session. Typically, the majority caucus will meet internally to select its choice and then the greater House body take a roll call voice vote to determine the new speaker.