Lawmakers in Montgomery have not made a clear decision on whether to impeach Gov. Robert Bentley over the scandal involving his alleged affair with his former senior aide, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Some legislators have said they wish to wait until any criminal investigations conclude. Some have said they don’t have enough information to vote up or down on articles of impeachment. Others say the governor should just stick it out.
A few have been bold enough to say it outright: Gov. Bentley should resign his office or be impeached for his actions. If those who hold that view are to be successful, though, they will need more than a typical press conference and news release to impeach a sitting governor for the first time in the Yellowhammer State’s history. They are going to need a quarterback sneak.
Enter State Rep. Alvin Holmes, a Democrat from Montgomery. Holmes is the longest-serving member of the Alabama House, having been elected in 1974 as one of the first African-American members of the Legislature since Reconstruction. Known by his colleagues as the dean of the Senate, Holmes has long been an outspoken and tactful advocate of his sometimes ahead-of-the-curve and other times just-out-of-the-mainstream views.
It wasn’t long after Holmes’ first election to the House that his colleagues in Montgomery began laying the early foundations of their 1978 gubernatorial campaigns. As an effort to boost his own campaign and keep his name in the headlines, then-Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley had a budget subcommittee created of which he would be the chairman — and in his hopes the political beneficiary. Rep. Holmes, however, supported Attorney General Bill Baxley for governor, and set out to help him in any way he could.
“I was trying to help Baxley become governor,” Holmes told the Florence Times-Daily in early 1993. “The last night of the session when everybody was real dizzy, I went to the mic and introduced a resolution honoring Harvey Glance.”
Glance, an Auburn University graduate, had just won a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics, giving Rep. Holmes the cover he needed. The lengthy resolution that he introduced on sine die, titled “House Joint Resolution 621 Commending Auburn University’s Harvey Glance for Outstanding Achievement in Track and Field,” outlined in full detail Glance’s accomplishments in the opening “whereas” clauses and congratulated him ad nauseam in the “therefore” sections. One of the latter lines, though, was reserved for a Trojan horse: a provision abolishing Lt. Gov. Beasley’s precious subcommittee.
“Now, ‘whereas’ don’t mean anything,” Holmes later explained. “It’s when you get to ‘therefore let it be resolved’ that counts, and when we got to that it said ‘let it be resolved that we abolish the House joint resolution that set up Beasley’s committee.’”
Later, when Beasley tried to convene the subcommittee to complete its work, he was told the Legislature had abolished it. Holmes had successfully completed a quarterback sneak.
Now — decades since the Harvey Glance resolution (which is still law) — if those in the halls of the State House want a sitting governor removed from office, they may well need to take the same road.
Rep. Ed Henry, a Republican from Hartselle, has introduced articles of impeachment, but already those articles have been called into question, dismissed and brought up again, but it hasn’t even gotten close to a floor vote, much less actual passage.
Rep. Henry needs to learn from the dean of the Senate a lesson he could’ve gleaned years ago — the same lesson of which then-Gov. George Wallace advised Holmes after his election to the House: The rules of the House and Senate are your best friends, and the only way you can get something done. Rep. Holmes learned that lesson, and Rep. Henry should, too. You can’t oppose what you can’t see. Use a quarterback sneak.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).