the 4:40 report
U.S. Sen Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., coasting to a third term in office, was in town recently and visited with some of his old law enforcement posse from his days as a U.S. attorney here.
Among Sessions' observations at a breakfast get-together:
- Sarah Palin had "done her job" of energizing the GOP base and it was John McCain's responsibility to win over enough independents to keep the White House in Republican hands. Sessions did not directly address the question of whether Palin was a political "flash in the pan," heir to the Reagan mantle or something in between.
- Barack Obama has been pretty much a non-entity in the Senate, an opinion shared at least quietly by senators on both sides of the aisle, according to Sessions. He has rarely been there nor has he been active. According to Sessions, Obama's presidential campaign began within minutes of his winning election to the U.S. Senate, never intended as more than a mere way station to his destination.
- McCain deserves plaudits for taking on his own party, even if he was was wrong on the issue as often as right in doing so, said Sessions. McCain's crusty independent streak contrasts sharply with Obama who has no record of straying from the party line, said Sessions.
- Some insight into Washington thinking can be gleaned from Sessions' collaboration with U.S. Sen. and Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden on a proposed child pornography bill. The senators agreed to jointly sponsor bi-partisan legislation to create a law enforcement task force bringing greater resources to bear on such criminal activity. Both were largely in agreement on details with one exception: Biden was adamant that the bill needed to be funded at $600 million, said Sessions. Sessions, with considerable task force experience from his days as a prosecutor with the Department of Justice, said such a huge appropriation was ridiculous, that the objectives could be achieved at a fraction of the amount Biden proposed spending. Biden had little interest in being party to anything less than "a big bill," said Sessions. The more money, the more attention and the more credit attached in Biden's world which sadly mirrors the larger Washington world, said Sessions. Ultimately, the legislation passed with funding of $100 million, said Sessions.
- On the $40 billion military refueling tanker contract, Sessions said he still did not believe that in the end the Pentagon would reject Northrup Grumman/EADS' superior plane costing 25 percent less to accept Boeing's clearly less worthy entry. Regardless of what the public may believe, politics doesn't always rule, especially in matters of national defense, said Sessions.
- Sessions said U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was fearless and would be a thorn in the side of Democratic leadership, even should an Obama administration and a filibuster-proof Congress emerge after Nov. 4 elections.
- Sessions doesn't have as much confidence in Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as Paulson has in himself, though that would be virtually impossible, according to Sessions.
- An Obama administration would eviscerate the defense budget to find funds for its social welfare initiatives, said Sessions.
- Bill Wynne, former chief federal probation officer here, recalled an anecdote from a visit to Washington not long after Sessions was first elected to the U.S. Senate. On their way to dinner, while Sessions was gassing up the car, Wynne said, "Jeff, I can't believe I know a U.S. senator." "Well, Bill, I can't believe I am a U.S. senator," Sessions replied.
Sessions faces a challenge on Nov. 4 from Democratic nominee Vivian Figures, a state senator from Mobile.
Dean vs. Warren at LWV forum
The League of Women Voters of Mobile will stage a Candidate Forum for the Mobile County Commission, District 3 race Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Tillman's Corner Community Center on Carol Plantation Road. GOP incumbent County Commissioner Mike Dean and Democratic nominee Brad Warren are expected to participate. Lagniappe managing editor Rob Holbert will moderate the program. The candidates will address questions prepared by the LWV.
Downtown Tilmon Brown for City Council?
Downtown redeveloper Tilmon Brown may run for the District 2 seat on the Mobile City Council in municipal elections next summer.
Brown allowed that there was "a very distinct possibility" of his candidacy for the seat now held by Councilman William Carroll.
Long ago Brown ran unsuccessfully against Gary A. Greenough for a slot on the old Mobile City Commission.
"I had lots of hair then and was full of youthful exuberance," Brown recalled. "I ran against Gary Greenough. In the end, he went to jail and I went into the
computer business. I am much older, wiser, uglier and balder. Such is life."
Tanner puts a pencil to it
Signs of non-partisan, pocket book thinking from Democratic former state Senator and ex-Mobile County Commissioner Gary Tanner:
"A president's pension currently is $191,300 per year, until he is 80 years old. Assuming the next president lives to age 80, Sen. McCain would receive ZERO pension as he would reach 80 at the end of two terms as president. Sen. Obama would be retired for 26 years after two terms and
would receive $4,973,800 in pension. Therefore it would certainly make economic sense to elect McCain in November. How's that for non-partisan thinking?"
Comeback Jack in Semmes?
Though Semmes' prospects for incorporation surged with the recent defeat of Mobile's annexation effort along Moffett Road, ex-professional boxer and former Sheriff Jack Tillman will not be a contender for mayor of the would-be fledgling municipality straddling U.S. 98 in west Mobile County.
"No way," said Tillman. "I"m moving on. I'm too busy with this book and community stuff -- Friends of Semmes, the Christmas Parade -- we had 15,000 last year -- the Azalea Festival. I've got this little business going (private investigations) and writing this book. I like about two chapters and I'll be through."
More likely possibilities for leadership of Semmes are community leaders Helen Joyce, an attorney, Doug Harwell, supervisor for a big construction company, and Leon Druckenmiller, assistant principal and highly successful baseball coach at Mary G. Montgomery High School.
With about 400 Semmes-area relatives altogether, including 72 nieces and nephews -- "There's a pile of 'em, man, a pile of 'em," said Tillman -- the one-time school system juvenile officer figures he could make a strong showing if he chose to run.
Nodine? No way! Maybe?
Controversy over annexation also spawned rumors that County Commissioner and former Mobile City Councilman Stephen Nodine, a leading critic of city tactics in advancing the annexation measures, might challenge Mobile Mayor Sam Jones in municipal elections next summer.
"People are pushing me toward that, but that's not going to be happening," said Nodine. "Maybe."
Shuffle the deck
The prospects of GOP setbacks on Nov. 4 makes for long faces among Republican incumbents in Washington. Perhaps the potential for near term irrelevancy even has some DC officials looking for more pleasant, productive pastures. Rumors of a Jo Bonner candidacy for governor in 2010 just won't go away either. Should the GOP congressman give up his seat, including a coveted spot on the House Appropriations Committee, in a bid to succeed popular term-limited Gov. Bob Riley, the list of Republican contenders to follow Jack Edwards, Sonny Callahan and Bonner as the state's representative from the 1st District would be long.
Talk would almost certainly include state Sens. Ben Brooks, Rusty Glover and Trip Pittman, County Commissioner Stephen Nodine, City Councilwoman Connie Hudson, state Rep. Jamie Ison and Sheriffs Sam Cochran of Mobile and Hoss Mack of Baldwin County.
Big turnout ahead
Mobile County's absentee ballot office has received 4,300 applications, according to Circuit Clerk JoJo Schwarzauer.
The number of requests suggests an especially heavy turnout locally for the Nov. 4 general election, according to Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis.
"...the absentee ballot response is stronger than it has been at least since 1992 from the general comments of my long time administrators/staff," said the judge.
Kant can and Kant did win,
perhaps against the odds
At one point the odds were pretty heavily against Tim Kant winning re-election as Fairhope's mayor, witness the number and energy of his many challengers for the top spot in the lovely Eastern Shore hamlet that strives to leave no bloom behind.
Yet, Kant narrowly navigated his way to a runoff, far short of the 50 percent plus one vote required for re-election. Usually, the farther the incumbent is from 50 percent in the primary the less his prospects are for a win in the runoff, the thinking being that votes for challengers are almost always votes against the incumbent. Kant may have been fortunate in having longtime Fairhope artist Dean Mosher squeak into the other runoff slot. Another more traditional runoff foe may not have fallen short.
"It got pretty ugly at the end," acknowledged a Kant camper. "I felt like Tim would win because he had the backing of a lot of the (former city councilman) Bob Gentle people and Dean evidently has a lot of people who strongly dislike him. One of Dean's biggest problems was being on the Single Tax Board -- he made a lot of enemies with the colony leaseholders."
Local GOP to fill tank pre-election
Local GOP Chairman Mark Erwin reports a record $40,000 budget for the local Republican GOTV (Get Out The Vote) effort, including TV, radio and print advertising "on issues important to conservative voters and the stark differences between John McCain and Barack Obama on those issues."
"One vital issue for our region is Obama's stated support for Boeing getting the contract to build the Air Force refueling tanker," stated Erwin. "People in Mobile
should understand that with John McCain we still have some hope that NG/EADS may win but with Obama we know we have absolutely no hope."
Erwin also reported huge numbers of supporters coming through the local headquarters where about $50,000 has been raised to help distribute McCain/Palin campaign materials.
The party will have its annual booth at the Greater Gulf States Fair beginning Friday, he said.
"We want to make sure that Mobile County comes in strong, not just for the top of the ticket but for all our state and local candidates," said Erwin.
Dems flying high, keeping cards close to vest
Local Democratic Chairman Brad Warren, also the party's nominee for the District 3 seat on the Mobile County Commission, said Obama's strong showing had energized the Democratic base "like never before." While monies available for GOTV should be similar to those spent in past presidential elections, the party expected to have "many more" local resources to assist in the effort thanks to Obama's popularity, said Warren.
As for amounts and strategy, Warren would say only that it was "an ancient Chinese secret."
Outcome still gray
Local GOP consultant Jon Gray urged Republicans to not despair, noting that Al Gore led George Bush 51-40 in the Gallup polling in early October, 2000.
Civic Center on notice
In the City Council struggle to adopt a budget for 2008-09, Councilman John Williams was pointed in his disdain for the Mobile Civic Center's performance, declaring, "I recommend we put the Civic Center on notice at the soonest date ... at the earliest point legally possible following Feb. 24, 2009 we must close the doors of the single biggest money pit in our city."
Obama strong where Clinton weak
U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, spoke to the Mobile Area Democratic Association Friday. Davis suggested that as president Obama would be more forceful than former President Bill Clinton in advocating qualified African-American attorneys for appointment to various legal posts in the U.S. Southern District of Alabama, including U.S. attorney and judicial and magistrate openings.
A former classmate of Obama at Harvard Law School, Davis heads the Obama campaign in Alabama.
Although Davis did not mention any names, subsequent talk has ranged over a number of possibilities for federal appointment, among them Raymond Bell, once and future County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, Carlos Williams, Karlos Finley, Ronnie Williams, Jackie Jackson, Larry Moorer and Vicki Davis. Although she isn't African-American, former chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney's office here, Michel Nicrosi, has also drawn mention.