A fuss, a farce and 'two cows':
Jones flush, Hammer uncocked
By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Sam Jones' re-election this summer to a second term as mayor of Mobile appears a safe bet or as safe as a bet can be given these facts:
- His incumbency with almost $300,000 in his campaign coffers;
- His only rumored foe of note, County Commissioner Steve Nodine, himself denies any interest in running;
- A website promoting Nodine's phantom candidacy -- Nodine for Mayor: The Hammer Is Cocked! Will he or won't he? -- is anonymous with its only verifiable information barely tying it to this hemisphere, a company called Tucows in Canada, which would seem to be a mask for concealing the true ownership of the site. The site was registered around Halloween last fall. According to Tucows' website, the company with headquarters in Toronto provides domain names, email and other services through "our extensive reseller network, called our OpenSRS group. We sell these services directly to consumers and small businesses through our unified Retail group known as Hover." The company boasts that it manages more than "eight million domain names, millions of mailboxes for a network of over 9,000 web hosts, ISPs (Internet Service Providers), and other resellers around the world."
Not only is the hammer not cocked, Nodine's not even half-cocked, he said, adding that there is no chance of him running for mayor this year.
A former city councilman, the Republican Nodine has clashed on occasion with Jones and his allies, but he has also worked with the mayor on economic development initiatives and other areas of overlapping interest to county and city government. A longtime Democratic county commissioner, Jones now holds a non-partisan office.
Nodine, but especially political consultant Jon Gray, contend that the website is likely a ruse by Jones' interests to lubricate the mayor's campaign fundraising machinery.
No foe, no dough.
"I am certain it was setup by Jones' team as a catalyst to raise money," Gray said. "Jones can't raise money without an opponent and they have been tossing around Nodine's name for months. Nodine denied it, so now they create a mysterious website with a concealed owner.
"Let's be clear, by suggesting Nodine will run as they have for the last few months, they can stockpile a lot of money to use against Republicans in the future."
Jones scoffs at the charge.
"I was not aware of the website until it was brought to my attention today (Monday) and we certainly do not have anything to do with it," said Jones.
Jones used the opportunity to underscore his recent fundraising prowess "from across the political spectrum."
"This support more than anything else shows how people in Mobile of many different political stripes are working together to continue to move our great community
forward," Jones said.
Jones filed his annual campaign finance report Monday. It showed a balance of nearly $300,000 in the wake of recent reception/fundraisers in advance of his re-election bid this summer. Municipal elections are scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 25.
Even so, according to Nodine, his Republican backers among Jones' group of "many different political stripes" report to him that Jones' representatives cite Nodine's prospective candidacy in aggressively seeking contributions.
Gray suggested that targeted political donors be savvy enough to request of Jones' fundraisers that they return when the mayor has an announced opponent.
"I would hope that anyone with half a brain would say, 'Sam come see me when Nodine qualifies and I will write you a check the same day,'" said Gray. "I just think people will regret giving thousands to a man with no opposition that can use those funds against their other political interest."
Nodine said he had no knowledge of the Nodine for Mayor website's ownership or its origins.
"I know one thing that's a fact: Mayor Jones and (City Attorney) Larry Wettermark and his supporters continue to use Steve Nodine for Mayor as a rallying cry which I think hurts him more than it helps him," Nodine said. "Even though I have no plans to run for mayor, I can tell you it is extraordinary the outpouring of support (he receives). But I want to make clear that I don't intend to run for mayor. So whoever created this website created a rallying cry for him to raise money."
"Larry and Sam need a case to make in order to raise money and the easiest case to make is that Steve Nodine is running for mayor, even though that's the furthest thing from the truth, plain and simple," Nodine said.
Nodine declined to identify the individuals associated with "the extraordinary outpouring of support" for him politically. However, he said that Jones, with whom he claims a solid working partnership, has some political issues, particularly stemming from crime in the city.
"I told you the issues that the city needs to address in this election," Nodine related. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. There have been a lot people encouraging me in the business community, but my answer is the same: I have no plans to run for mayor; I've got a lot of work to do as a county commissioner. I have a mission with this tanker contract, but also with Hwy. 98 and many other road projects that are needed."
"Sam and I make a helluva a good team the way things are," he said. "We've worked these mega projects in a partnership and we've been very successful, along with his city council and my fellow commissioners."
Gray and Strategy Inc. have been involved in past Nodine campaigns. He also disavowed any connection with the website.
"The Nodine website was not setup by him, us or any campaign operation involving him," Gray said. "He has repeatedly told me he is not running for Mayor and has no interest in that office. I believe he and his supporters would consider the mayor's office a demotion. There are higher grounds he might be interested in should an opportunity come about, but I can guarantee you it is not Mayor."