Rahm Emanuel helped Republicans win control of Alabama legislature

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
Font Size:

He was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff and now he’s mayor of Chicago.

But Rahm Emanuel, a committed Democrat, deserves credit for something that probably shocks even him: helping Republicans in Alabama win control of both chambers of the state’s legislature for the first time in 136 years.

“Rahm Emanuel is obviously a smart guy, a brilliant political tactician, and an inveterate campaigner,” Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard writes in a soon-to-be released book on winning control of the state’s legislature. “I would not vote for him in a million years, but I do appreciate the advice he indirectly provided us in the months leading up to 2010.”

In an interview with The Daily Caller on Thursday while promoting his book, “Storming the State House,” in Washington, D.C., Hubbard explained how Republicans in Alabama were influenced by Emanuel when plotting the strategy to win control of the legislature in 2010.

Emanuel led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, when Democrats reclaimed control of Congress. Hubbard said GOP officials studied “The Thumpin’,” a book about Emanuel’s efforts, and were influenced by his strategy.

“It really kind of reinforced some things I already knew and kind of gave me some ideas on some other things,” Hubbard told TheDC.

“The number one lesson was that we had to be involved in candidate recruitment,” he said. “And in the book about Emanuel, The Thumpin’, that was clear. That’s what they did. They went district by district and they picked conservative Democrats, professionals, business people to run for those seats. They didn’t just depend on who showed up and wanted to run.”

Hubbard explained that in 2006, the Alabama GOP likely lost close races because they didn’t have the quality “caliber of candidates” that they should have. A major focus in 2010 — when Alabama’s GOP won both the House and Senate — was recruiting good candidates.

The House speaker says he’s never thanked Rahm in person. “I don’t think he’d be a pleasant guy to talk to,” he said with a laugh.

Hubbard also discussed how — as chairman of the Republican Party in Alabama in 2010 — he offered thousands of dollars in incentives to party staffers if they flipped seats from Democratic to Republican control.

For any legislative seat that switched, he promised staffers a $1,200 bonus. They were also promised $6,000 if they won both chambers of the legislature. The staffers ended up making $38,000.

“I’ve always believed in incentives,” Hubbard said. “I mean, it’s the American way… I wasn’t paying them a lot of money from the party. We had to raise our money and most of our money was going for campaigns. We had kind of the bare minimum, as far as overheard. But I believe if you put something out there and incentivize people, what’s more American than that?”

In a wide-ranging interview about Alabama politics, Hubbard also expressed interest in a gubernatorial campaign of his own.

“In a perfect world, I’d like to run for governor one day,” Hubbard told TheDC, though making it clear he has no plans to do that any time soon.

“But right now I thoroughly enjoy being Speaker of the House,” he said. “I’m proud of what we’re able to do in the legislature. After 12 years of being in the minority and the only thing we do is to try to kill bad things, now we can actually pass good things.”

Follow Alex on Twitter