Birmingham senator joins group seeking Barron's ouster
By M.J. Ellington
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MONTGOMERY — A Birmingham senator known for his support of Democratic causes Tuesday joined a group of six Democrats who want to organize the Senate with bipartisan leadership.
Sen. Rodger M. Smitherman said he joined the Senate Leadership Group, organized by six Senate Democrats who want bipartisan leadership in the upper chamber. The group has called for the replacement of Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, as Senate president pro tem.
Smitherman said he is convinced that bipartisan leadership is a key for effective functioning in the Senate, often mired in discord and partisan wrangling in recent years.
"It became obvious that it would take bipartisan leadership," Smitherman said.
Smitherman said the decision does not change his commitment to education or other priorities important to his district in the Birmingham area. "I know I will have input in this group," Smitherman said. "I know these senators and feel like I can play a part in the goals of the group."
A Birmingham attorney, Smitherman is the second black senator to join the group. Sen. E.B. McClain of Midfield was one of the original six leadership group members. But Smitherman said issues of race had nothing to do with his decision. “It was strictly the belief that bipartisan leadership is necessary,” he said.
Smitherman said he started thinking about joining the leadership group organized by Sens. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, Tom Butler, D-Madison, and others after the Legislature held its orientation session last week in Tuscaloosa.
Other members of the group include Democratic Sens. Jimmy Holley of Elba, Larry Means of Attalla and Phil Poole of Moundville.
Butler said he is pleased with Smitherman’s decision.
The group already announced backing for Preuitt’s election as Senate president pro tem when the Legislature meets in January.
If Senate Republicans, who informally voiced support for Preuitt last week, continue to support the group’s goals, the bipartisan block will have 19 votes, enough to put Preuitt in the pro tem’s chair.
“I am very happy with Sen. Smitherman’s decision,” Butler said. “We are well on our way to reaching the goal of a bipartisan Senate. Our arms are outstretched and we welcome others.”
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