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Erwin fuels up for DA race

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
The location and many of the faces were the same as a 2004 reception to raise money for Democratic District Attorney John Tyson Jr.’s re-election campaign, but the dozens of guests at Matt and Phyllis Metcalfe’s Delwood home Thursday night were present to support the GOP campaign of Mark Erwin who promised new leadership to refresh an office that has grown stale under Tyson.

Erwin is engaged in a spirited battle for the Republican nomination with 14-year Tyson assistant Ashley Rich.

No Democrat has yet announced a run for the office led by a Democrat since 1978. Party officials at a Democratic Party fund raiser at Café 615 Thursday night expressed optimism that they would secure a candidate next week. They are courting former Clinton administration U.S. Attorney Don Foster. Ex-District Attorney Chris Galanos recently tested the waters for two weeks or so but chose to remain on shore.  

The deadline to qualify with either party to run for office is Friday, April 2. Party primary elections are set June 1.

“I am committed to a change in the direction of the district attorney’s office for the good of Mobile County,” Erwin said in brief remarks to the gathering that included City Councilwoman Connie Hudson, Prichard Mayor Ron Davis, ex-Mobile Mayor Mike Dow, University of Alabama trustee Marietta Urquhart, Circuit Judge Rusty Johnston, Volkert Engineering’s Keith King, Tea Party-affiliated Common Sense Campaign executive director Pete Riehm, state GOP vice president George Williams, local attorney Ed Massey and Mobile County Jail Warden Trey Oliver.

The event was expected to generate $60,000-$100,000. A total would be finalized in several days, according to the Erwin campaign.

Erwin echoed Rich’s words at her rally Tuesday when she noted the likelihood that even if a Democrat entered the race, the issue of Tyson's successor most probably will be decided in the GOP primary.

With no Democrat in the field, Erwin said the campaign amounted to a “60-day sprint.”

Erwin pledged a positive campaign that would refrain from personal attacks.

“We have been and will be very careful to make our campaign less about people and personalities and more about philosophy and general principles,” said Erwin.

Erwin said his campaign would highlight a “distinct agenda” with notable differences in the administration of the prosecutor’s office.

“You will not hear me make any personal attacks,” said Erwin. “I make you that pledge. If you hear something that crosses the line, you call me so I can set it straight.”

Despite a 17-year law practice here and a stint as chairman of the Mobile County Republican Party, the Saraland native said he has no illusions that he is a household name.

“I’ve been around a while but nobody knows who I am and I know that,” he said. “It’s a big county.”

Erwin said he was available to speak to any club or group regardless of size to explain “why my plan is good.”

“We need to rebuild that office’s relationship with law enforcement; we need to keep the bad guys locked up and off the streets; we need to work on some budget issues so we have the resources to go after the guys causing the problems,” said Erwin.

The present district attorney’s office suffers from “a real shortage of leadership,” said Erwin.

Tyson, who has held the post since then-Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. appointed him in 1994, has taken on a special assignment for GOP Gov. Bob Riley as chief of the governor's statewide anti-gambling task force.

Regardless of that distraction, said Erwin, the local DA’s office has “gotten stale and set in its ways.”

“I think that’s natural over time and not a criticism,” he said. “But a fresh approach would reinvigorate that office and raise morale.”

Downtown at the Democratic fund raiser, attendees included gubernatorial contender Ron Sparks, former Assistant District Attorney Karlos Finley, his law partner Steve Moore, Attorney General candidate Michel Nicrosi, congressional prospect Mike Turcotte, state Senate District 33 challenger Herman Thomas, House District 98 challenger Napoleon Bracy, Mobile Area Democratic Association president Vance McCrary, labor leader Donnie Adams, Mobile Area Education Association leader Wade Perry, (now Lt. Gov.) Folsom aide Lauren Klumpp, local party officials Yasmin Coker and Jenny Parker Bourne, state committee member Ben Sumrall and interim party chairman Reggie Copeland Jr.
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