Smitherman expects to lead Alabama Senate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Democratic state Sen. Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham says he has the votes to be elected to the Senate's top leadership spot, possibly as early as Thursday.

Smitherman said Tuesday he has lined up 17 of the Senate's 32 votes to become president pro tem.

Senate Democrats promised Smitherman in 2007 that they would make him the president pro tem in 2009 if he would side with them rather than Republicans in organizing the Senate.

The plan calls for the current president pro tem, Democrat Hinton Mitchem of Union Grove, to resign.

Some Republican senators had hoped to elect Senate Minority Leader Jabo Waggoner of Vestavia Hills as president pro tem.

But Waggoner says Smitherman has enough votes to secure the post.

Smitherman said he will step down as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be replaced by Sen. Myron Penn of Union Springs.

Then Penn will resign as chairman of the Senate Confirmations Committee, and Mitchem will get that job.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)