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Many would like Seth’s seat

When Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, announced at the end of this year’s legislative session that he doesn’t plan to seek re-election in 2010, he took much of the state by surprise. Suddenly, all of the chatter in Montgomery was not about who will succeed Gov. Bob Riley, but who will succeed our friend The Speaker.

Even as the announcement was being made in Montgomery, the wheels were starting to turn in Covington County, which makes up most of House District 92.

Hammett, known to most everyone in Covington County simply as “Seth,” has won election to the seat eight times. In 2006, he won with his largest margin ever, capturing 77 percent of the votes cast in that year’s general election.

During the last three of those eight terms, he’s served as speaker of the house, and is known throughout the state for the organization with which he runs the House, making the state senate look like a rowdy school playground by comparison.

Some might wonder why there is already so much interest in a race that’s 12 months away.

The last time this seat was open without an incumbent on the ballot, Carter was president. It was the same year that Alabama –still coached by The Bear – went 11-1-0 and was declared the national champion in the AP poll. Balloon angioplasty was developed to treat coronary artery disease that year, the Eagles’ Hotel California won the Grammy for record of the year, and Sony introduced the first portable stereo, the Walkman.

How times have changed!

In a “round up the usual suspects” reaction, on the same day that Hammett made his announcement, local political watchers immediately predicted former Commission Chairman Greg White, local GOP chairman Bill Blocker, and former Andalusia Councilman Don Cotton would all be in the race. Then came word that state Republicans were courting Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes to run. And political sources in Opp say, “don’t count H.D. (Edgar) out.”

Local attorney and former Andalusia City Councilman Mike Jones has long been expected to run for the state legislature when Hammett retired. Political watchers say he’s considering that run on the Republican ticket.

A big question on the Democratic side was answered Monday when Glen Zorn announced he’s running for state ag commissioner. After Hammett’s announcement last month, Zorn, who’s currently a deputy ag commissioner, was a Democratic favorite for the seat.

Other Democrats mentioned as possible candidates include Opp attorney Wesley Laird, Andalusia attorney Walt Merrell and Andalusia pharmacist David Darby.

You can bet that state Republicans will be willing to put big bucks into this race, because an “R” from District 92 would put them one step closer to winning Hammett’s other seat, the speaker’s chair. Already, Democrats who would like to succeed him as speaker are raising money to help candidates across the state get elected.

Look for official announcements soon.