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Chip Drago
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The Political Fray

What's done is done, but what's to be?

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
(Part 1 of 3)
Tuesday's election results delivered a few answers but more new questions.

We turn to our very best political detectives who have sifted through the returns for clues to explain the Mobile/Baldwin and Alabama electorate's motives.

"Any post-election day analysis of the carnage? Popular opinion seems to be that Bradley Byrne would beat Tim James but struggle with Robert Bentley in a July 13 runoff election.

I agree - strongly. Bentley unsullied, understated. Tim and Bradley both damaged (though not enough to lose to Ron Sparks, in all likelihood).

GOP Attorney General nominee Luther Strange lost to a Dem last time in the general with a late fade and James Anderson is a resourceful pol (assuming he beats Giles Perkins for the Democratic AG nomination). Is it so necessarily a Republican year that even Jim Folsom Jr. is an underdog to Kay Ivey?

Possibly, but Folsom is strong in his own right and beat Luther despite a weak Lucy Baxley at the top of the ticket in 2006. Would be hard-pressed to find an election in the country with two more dignified, genteel southern accents, though. It is each individual candidate's responsibility to separate themselves from/overcome any possible or likely drag from the national Dems goings on/ midterms, etc.

Does the electorate's rejection of Artur Davis (Obama's state campaign chairman) suggest Dem misgivings over Obama? Blind loyalty to Joe Reed, ADC et al? A burning desire to buy lottery tickets at the corner convenience store?

No - Poorly run campaign that took too much for granted. Plain and simple. Everybody thought they would limp across the primary finish line and hopefully get it together in the fall. A real shocker.

Interesting regarding ADC's Joe Reed and New South/ADC. The outcome shows they, of course, still have significant influence in a low turnout election like this one (though not in Mobile where Artur won 60-40, Herman lost 2-1, Tyson whipped 'em twice, and Levon Manzie took it to Fleet Belle ... to name a few in recent years), but not as big a piece of the pie in high turnout elections - like non-endorsed Obama beating Hillary in 2008. The lesson from this one is: the smaller the turnout, the more critical the ADC/New South endorsements. And ... just because Artur couldn't overcome it, doesn't mean it can't be done.

How could Erwin get beat that badly? I would almost think Herman Thomas would've gotten as many votes for DA in the GOP primary. Does Erwin's defeat forebode more tectonic shifting of the local political ground below the surface and behind the scenes?

Certainly a tectonic shift for those connected to Nodine.  Remains to be seen how far reaching the shock wave will go. I think that depends on how effective the Dems are in discovering and exploiting the true level of corruption and incompetence Repub control has brought to the county commission.

Also am curious as to your readers thoughts as to whether Ashley Rich is actually that strong or if the results were more indicative of Erwin's deep involvement in the Nodine stuff. I have a feeling the margin is attributable to latter, despite Ashley being an attractive candidate.

Speaking of HYT, is he done? Is a 2-1 whipping a fatal showing or signs of political life in the ol' clean-up swatter yet?

Done, but may not recognize it and continue to flail about pathetically. I also hear there are problems on the horizon at the Hundred Black Men's alternative school for troubled youth, which has received millions from MCPSS, and where Herm's been spending some time (think on that one for a while). Wonder if he handles any 'discipline' over there?

Will John Tyson step aside to let Bob Riley appoint Ashley Rich in advance of the general election? Should local Dems be disgruntled with Tyson for yet another thumb in the eye to the party?

Don't know - Tyson doesn't owe Dems anything. We're lucky he stuck around. Wouldn't respect the guy if he didn't stay loyal to his staff. It's the Dems and Don Foster's responsibility to win the race in the fall, not Tyson's.

What about County Commission District 2 with Ralph Buffkin/Sam Cochran vs. Connie Hudson/Bess Rich vs. Pete Riehm/Sandy Stimpson vs. Carmen Tillman/50 Semmes haircuts a day? Despite a short course, the candidates will have lots of help in generating a decent turnout. Would that favor Riehm who as the freshest candidate in the field may benefit from an anti-incumbency mood?

No real feel for this one. Gut says Buffkin and Hudson in a run-off. Ken Megginson is the anti-Nodine and should get in IF he can raise some money.

(As an aside I think the pronouncements of Jonathan Gray's demise are premature -- though, I think Gray would acknowledge that neither he nor political consultants are generally sympathetic characters.

Erwin's Nodine stuff was not Gray's fault, Troy King was damaged goods and I just don't know much about the Baldwin County D.A. stuff. What I do know is that Jonathan is experienced, technically proficient, and has a good mind for what he does. Like him or not.)
-- FTS

"Well, there's a lot to mull over. In the order you have them, here goes a few thoughts:

Both Bentley and James have strengths and weaknesses. James's great strength is his ability to self-fund. He put $3 million into the race. So, presumably he'd be willing to write some more big checks.

Bentley can't do this. But he will have the AEA as an ally, and they will do whatever it takes to try and stop Bradley. And Bentley has not crossed them and quietly worked with them. So, he's ideal for AEA's purposes.

It could develop into a referendum on whether the AEA can control the Republican Party like it ended up controlling the Democratic Party. It will be a fascinating contest for the future face of Alabama politics.

I think James Anderson is the almost certain winner of the runoff. I mean if Giles (Perkins) can get the New South nomination and get out his vote, I guess it is possible he could turn it around. But it seems very near impossible.

And Anderson will be a tough opponent for Luther (Strange). A lobbyist is not an ideal candidate, particularly one for oil companies. So, Anderson's drab looks could play into this hardworking, average guy lawyer vs. rich big business lobbyist theme. So, I'd rate November as a toss up for AG.

The Artur loss, and its magnitude, is a testament to the African-American political organizations. They did him in. Ironic. I don't think the Obama ties really played much of a role. It was a good night for Joe Reed. And if he can defeat Bradley, Joe will consider that he's had a good year, knocking off two of his chief irritants, Artur and Bradley.

Mark can lay the vote entirely at Nodine's feet. Had he let Nodine save the State of Alabama the cost of three decades of incarceration, he might have won. When he tried to help a friend, he might as well have withdrawn his name from the ballot. That is all I heard people talk about. I don't read anything larger into it.

Herman was a dead man walking from the beginning. How delusional for him to put his name on the ballot. I mean Vivian has burned a lot of bridges over the years. If she had been a more neutral opponent, and this had been more a referendum on Herman, he'd have ended up with an even smaller vote. I never bought that the AA community was quietly supportive of Herman. He's also lucky white voters were drawn to the GOP primary for governor. Had their been a significant white vote it also would have been far worse. Basically, he got beat 2-1 in the AA community. With whites in the mix and a less controversial AA opponent, his vote would have been under 20 percent.

As for the county commission election, way too early to handicap, I think. At least, at this juncture, I have no idea."
-- AHF

"First, Paul Hubbert was the big winner in the Republican primary. He devised a plan to get anyone other than Bradley Byrne as the Repub candidate. I think he will succeed. I think he secretly prayed for Roy Moore, as he probably feels that Sparks can beat Moore, but that was such a long shot that he came up with a next best case which is Tim James. With James the nominee, Hubbert had a win-win in November. I feel that Hubbert and Fob had a good relationship. I still cannot forget Fob putting Joe Reed on the State airplane to fly to the Justice Department in DC in order to get Justice to veto the Legislative reapportionment act which the Legislature passed in '81 and Fob signed into law. Reed and Hubbert wanted more blacks in the Senate and House and after the Justice department denied pre-clearance, the inevitable Jim Blacksher law suit was filed which greatly increased the percentages of blacks in the House and Senate, the core strength of AEA. (Ironically, since the black districts were created by pooling 65% of the blacks in the district, the remaining districts became more white which led to a greater Republican presence in the legislature which had been almost nil pre '81.) So, I believe Hubbert thought James would be cooperative. I imagine Hubbert is okay with Bentley since he contributed to his campaign.  So, Hubbert wins big time in that race as I do not see how Bradley can win this runoff.

Next, beware of going negative in multi-party races.  J.E. Turner first taught me that lesson in 1976 when he was running for County Commissioner against Scott Hunter and Arnold Debrow. J.E. was running third and he wanted to make the runoff. So, he started attacking Scott. J.E. succeeded in hurting Scott.  However, Scott’s votes went to Debrow who won without a runoff. J.E. finished a distant third. Can we see the parallels in this race for Governor? Bentley became the default candidate. I have not analyzed the race and will not do so. However, based on experience, I believe Bentley has a bizarre combination of votes. I believe he has progressives that would have gone with Byrne but were turned off by the first two ads and then the negativity; the 'typical' Alabama voter that would have gone to James but did not due to the damage inflicted on James; and the Moore voters who did not want to waste their vote when they did not see Moore on TV in the final days but saw Bentley a lot in the final days. What a motley group Bentley has, but it probably got him to the runoff. If so, he is the winner. He will surely combine the remaining Moore vote (Byrne is an evolutionist) and the James vote (Byrne lied about their man and cost him the nomination.). So, I see very little vote out there for Byrne to pick up if Bentley is the nominee and if Byrne runs the type of campaign he mistakenly ran in the primary. Unless Byrne shifts into a totally new campaign, one based solely on education and what Bradley has done and what he can do based on his experience in the two-year system, I think that James would also beat Byrne. Furthermore, Byrne cannot transition by some ad which seems to blame others for the negative campaign he just went through. It must be a totally new start, as if the last campaign did not exist. I think it is a really tough sled for Byrne due the mistaken strategy of his campaign, from the start. Those first ads, the gun and the Bible ads inevitably led to that terrible primary which was not in Byrne’s best interests in my opinion.

I think Tyson ought to step aside for Rich if he wants to help his future as it would make him look like a really big person. However, I doubt he will do it as his father would kill him. If Tyson stepped aside, Rich is a certainty but she is probably a certainty in any event.

Erwin ran against Tyson and was tied to Nodine. When I saw Mike Dean come on TV and ask Erwin to resign from his post as Assistant County Attorney because Nodine brought him on and he only worked for Nodine, that was the last bit of dirt on the grave.  Then the Register put the flowers on the grave with the coverage and editorial of the Nodine gun removal. I am amazed he got 28% as I heard people who had contributed thousands of dollars blaming the people who got them to support Erwin.  That will be a problem.  People close to Erwin will take a huge hit in their ability to raise money in the next campaign. I would hate to be their candidate in the commissioner’s race. I recommend they go underground in the near future and only come out in the next cycle. Time heals all wounds but if they go back to the well at this time they are delaying recovery from this Nodine mess in my opinion. As you know, Erwin supporters were Nodine supporters and that is a heavy burden to carry now.

I know only about the short term re HYT. Regarding his long term future, I will never forget that Michael Figures told me one time that we whites do not forgive but blacks believe in redemption and forgiveness. So, there is the way back but I am not sure HYT with his pride can ever go there.

That is probably too much commentary for one day for you to read from an old has been in the field and it might all be wrong as I have not been inside to read the polls which is really where the truth lies now."
-- SCD

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