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Alabama Senate Democrats talk about healing split

MONTGOMERY (AP) — State Senate Democrats who were split by political attacks and litigation are once gain talking to each other in hopes of developing a working majority that can run the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, D-Cullman, said Thursday that he and other members of the 18-member Senate Democratic majority have been talking with the five Democratic senators who sided with the Senate’s 12 Republicans in the last legislative session.

With the Senate divided 18-17, little got accomplished in the session other than passing the state budgets.

“Everyone in the majority wants all the Democrats to get back together and caucus together. I’ll do anything I can to make that happen,” Little said.

One of the dissident Democrats, Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, said he’s optimistic the dissident Democrats will get together with the Democratic majority.

Senate Democrats have been divided since 1999, when a small group started siding with Republican senators on most issues.

But in 2003, some additional Democrats split and tried to remove Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, as the Senate’s president pro tem.

The split intensified in the 2004 legislative elections when Barron and some of his allies contributed money to try to unseat some incumbent Democratic senators who had been critical of Barron.

In addition, some Democrats supported a lawsuit that sought to undo Means’ election.

When the new Senate organized in January, Means lined up with Republicans along with four other Democratic senators: Tom Butler of Madison, E.B. McClain of Midfield, Jim Preuitt of Talladega and Jimmy Holley of Elba.

Last Thursday, leaders of the Democratic majority invited the dissident Democrats to a private meeting in Montgomery that lasted more than five hours.

Means said he joined McCain and Butler in sitting down
with four members of the
majority: Little, Barron, Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, and Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville.

Means said successfully defending the lawsuit challenging his election cost his campaign about $90,000, but he’s willing to put that behind him.

“There are some hard feelings among some, but somewhere along the line, you’ve got to get over and do what’s best for your constituents,” Means said.

Holley said he and Preuitt were invited to the meeting with the leaders of the Democratic majority, but both were away on vacation when it occurred. He said the five Democrats expect to get together soon and then talk more with the Democratic majority.

Means said the Senate can’t afford another session like this year where little got done because of the sharp split in the Senate and stalling tactics resulting from that split.

Shutting off stalling tactics in the Senate and forcing a vote on legislation takes 21 votes — something neither side could muster this year.

State Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, said all members of the Democratic majority are supportive of the talks aimed at reuniting Democratic senators.

“To have a workable majority, we need those gentlemen,” he said.

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

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