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State GOP to support Preuitt
12 Republicans, 7 Democrats favor senator for president pro tem

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — State Sen. Jim Preuitt appears positioned to take control of the top leadership position in the Alabama Senate.

The Senate's 12 Republicans announced Wednesday they will join with seven Democrats to support Preuitt, D-Talladega, for president pro tem of the Senate.

Senators will elect their new leader during an organizational session beginning Jan. 9. The support of the Republicans would give Preuitt 19 votes — a majority in the 35-member Senate.

"We have been in discussions with the Republican caucus for some time and it is good to see them united in solid support of our bipartisan leadership effort," Preuitt said Wednesday.

Preuitt, 71, who owns a Talladega automobile dealership, is entering his fifth term in the Legislature and served the past eight years as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. The president pro tem of the Senate for the past eight years, Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, has said he will not seek another term as president pro tem.

Preuitt, a Moulton native who grew up at Danville, has been a part of a group of conservative Democrats that had joined with Republicans in recent years
to challenge Barron's leadership.

A statement released Wednesday by the membership of the Senate Republican Caucus said they hope new leadership will put an end to partisan bickering that has often slowed action in the upper chamber of the Legislature.

"In the last several weeks, a group of seven Democrats has come forward with a pledge to the citizens of Alabama to organize the Senate in a cooperative and bipartisan manner. We welcome this commitment to a new way of operating the Senate," the statement said.

Votes

In the statement, the 12 Republican senators acknowledge they do not have the votes to organize the Senate by themselves.

"As with all opportunities, this one can only be realized if these Democrats match their words with their actions," the statement said.

The Senate minority leader, Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham, said supporting Preuitt is a way to ensure that the Senate has new leadership for the next four years.

"There's no question about it that we needed to change leadership in the Senate and this is the way to do it," Waggoner said.

Waggoner said he feels good about what the Senate could accomplish under new leadership.

"We've been under the previous leadership and a lot of us have been cut out of the process and we feel this will be a way for us to participate," Waggoner said.

An ally of Barron, Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville, had said he might be interested in the president pro tem position.

Mitchem said Wednesday he has not been actively pursuing the position, but said he still considers the race for president pro tem to be "wide open." Mitchem pointed out that past races for Senate leadership positions were not decided until the start of the organizational session.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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