It’s the ultimate October surprise: Two weeks before Election Day, one of the most powerful politicians in a state faces a 23-count indictment on ethics charges. It should change everything, right?
Not in Alabama.
Mike Hubbard, the Republican Speaker of the state’s House of Representatives, was indicted Monday for using his political office to solicit favors from a variety of wealthy and powerful Alabama figures. However, this is not likely to have a big effect come November.
It’s not because this isn’t a scandal, or even that Alabama voters have grown used to seamy side of politics, as two recent former governors convicted of felonies. Instead, it’s because of gerrymandering and the weakness of the Democratic Party in Alabama.
Under Hubbard’s leadership, Republicans took control of the Alabama State House for the first time since Reconstruction in 2010 while attacking Democrats for an entrenched culture of corruption. The GOP then promptly took advantage of their new redistricting powers to gerrymander a favorable map that would ensure Republican control for the near future. This was a page straight out of the Democratic playbook, as they had used gerrymandering for decades to remain in power in a state that had long since become a Republican stronghold at the federal level.
Currently, Democrats in Alabama are so weak that that incumbent U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions doesn’t even have an opponent, while Democratic gubernatorial nominee Parker Griffith has switched parties twice in the past few years.
Hubbard, who is the third Republican member of the legislature to be caught up in the investigation that led to his indictment, is planning on fighting the charges. In the meantime, while the news will continue to shake the political culture in Alabama, it just won’t mean much on Election Day.