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Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times

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The Political Round-Up

A win made for spin;
Ex-prez 'Bama bound;
Obama burning bright

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
It was a win made for spin.

James Fields' trouncing of  Wayne Willingham in a special election to fill the House District 12 seat from Cullman had Democrats chortling and Republicans tut-tutting.

Though the seat had been in Democratic hands, thus no altering of the partisan count in the state Legislature, the GOP had hoped to add one to its column. The possibility of a GOP win seemed enhanced at least in part because the district is majority white, as is (though presumably entirely) Willingham, while Fields is black. Race doesn't guarantee an outcome, but the odds in such situations suggested good reason for GOP optimism.

Cullman County’s population is more than 96 percent white and 1 percent black, according to statistics from the Cullman Economic Development Agency. So lots of lilies in the Fields' tally.

Democratic leaders point to Fields' approximate 3,700-2,500 or 60-40 percent win as evidence of the futility of the GOP's campaign to wrest control of the Legislature from its ages' old Democratic grip. For their part, Republicans tip their hats to Fields as exemplary candidate whose victory was more a credit to him than a harbinger of a broader disfavor among voters with the GOP.    

Democrat Neal Morrison resigned as the House District 12 representative last year to become interim president of Bevill State Community College.

Should Republicans be blue over the Democrats' red-letter day in Cullman?

Mobile Bay Times solicited the thoughts of a few Capitol-savvy folks, asking: What do you make of the Fields/Willingham HD12 outcome? Was it a harbinger of Democratic gains throughout the state or just a reflection of Fields' individual strength as a candidate?

"I understand it's his individual strength. He is said to be one of the best speakers anyone has seen in those parts, a minister and extremely personable. It's truly remarkable and shows how an individual under the right circumstances can transcend stereotypes."
-- Matt McDonald,
attorney, Mobile

"Little of both."
-- Jim Folsom,
lieutenant governor, Montgomery

"Disheartening (for the state GOP).

It is my understanding that Mr. Fields was a great candidate. However, the numbers were in our favor and we should have picked up the seat.  We, the Republican Party,  may need to reexamine ourselves at the state and national levels. We need to appeal to working class conservatives - not sure our message is doing that right now.

I hope it's not true, but I heard that we were not united after the primary and the Democrats were.

I also heard that annual reappraisal killed us and Mr. Fields tied it to Gov. Riley.

2010 is a long way away.  We will be OK."
-- Spencer Collier,
GOP legislator, Bayou La Batre

"I didn't follow the race closely enough to have any insight. I will tell you a few things that I gleaned from what both sides were saying about the race:

It appeared to be very competitive from the start; and everyone thought the Dem was an exceptional candidate (evidenced by two wins with 60% of the vote).

If I were on the Dem side, I would be talking this win up big time.  
However, I don't think this election will be long-remembered.

The looming and much-discussed/anticipated indictments and the resulting corruption trials will have more of an impact on the 2010 legislative races than anything in recent history. I say that presuming (as I do) that the indictments will be as numerous as I have always heard and that 90-plus percent of the indictees will be Dems and will include several in the Dem leadership."
-- Steve French,
state senator (R), Birmingham

"Both (evidence of Fields' strength and broader Democratic gains), from what I hear."
-- Beth Marietta Lyons,
lawyer/lobbyist, Mobile

"This was purely a reflection of one candidate and one man ... James Fields."
-- Chris Brown,
GOP political consultant

"That seat was a Dem hold and while we tried it was uphill just looking at the demographics. Not in our top 15 target districts.

Second, their guy is really very good. Popular, successful, articulate pastor and former local football star."
-- Jerry Lathan,
state GOP official, Theodore

"Every once in a while an event happens that shows Alabama is making progress on equality issues.  None was more significant than Sam
Jones' election as Mayor of Mobile. What Sam Jones and James Fields have in common is that they were both the best candidates, and the pleasure of the election was that they were elected for that reason instead of the color of their skin.

This is an embarrassing loss for the Republicans because they assumed they would win on the race issue alone.

The big winner is Cullman who showed that it is a progressive community that is more focused on moving forward than backwards. The second winner are Democrats who continue to show deep strength in North Alabama."
-- Rick Heartsill,
Direct Communications, Birmingham

"... it's a Democrat district, not to mention our candidate wasn't very strong ...  from what I've heard the Dem is pretty sharp and well-spoken."
-- Jim Barton,
GOP state legislator, Mobile

"I've not been very close to this one. I do know that those who have spent time in Cullman and/or around Fields specifically all comment on what a truly decent, hardworking man he is. Ran a strong grassroots campaign (made me think of Trip Pittman). I think he was/is a marine, was/is a preacher, and a real notable figure for his community involvement, too. A pretty remarkable win for Cullman County."
-- Vance McCrary,
  lawyer, Democratic official, Mobile

" I had heard it was a strong possibility and that Fields was very popular."
-- Steve Windom,
lawyer/lobbyist, Montgomery

"... remember Locy Baker represents a majority white district also. My question is can he get re-elected or will he be like Nick Williams and only be able to win in a special election."
-- Chris Pringle,
ex-GOP legislator, Mobile

"Clearly politics is not nearly as much about race as it use to be, and that should have been obvious with Jones in 2005 and with the steam Obama has acquired. I would consider this a non-changer as the Republicans did not fare well in 2006, nor since then, but compared to the rest of the country Alabama has fared much much better. Better results to come for sure.

On the election yesterday: I was right on target yesterday with my prediction that turnout would be around 30 percent. The official number is 31 percent. I expect to be right on target with the prediction that Obama will take Alabama as I understand that there were about 5,000 more Democrat voters than Republicans.

Also, while the Republican Chairman (Mark Erwin) and I were surveying polling precincts yesterday, we passed a car from Florida with an Obama sign in the back. In the car were four young women, two white and two black. They were clearly campaigning for Obama. I know that teams from Florida came as well as people from Georgia and other locations. It is fun to live in these here political times!"
-- Jon Gray,
political/media consultant, Mobile

Bill Clinton 'Bama bound
Ex-President Bill Clinton will campaign for his wife and Democratic presidential contender, Hillary Clinton, Saturday in Huntsville, according to Pat Edington of the Clinton campaign.

Clinton's appearance will include a fundraiser/brunch followed by a public event, Edington reported.

Obama camp 'on fire'
Brad Warren, chairman of the Mobile County Democratic Party and a prospective delegate for presidential candidate Barack Obama, says the Obama camp is "on fire" in the Mobile area.

"They brought 40 kids down here from South Carolina just to work Mobile County today (Wednesday, Jan. 30)," Warren stated.

According to Warren, it appeared during Wednesday's balloting in Mobile that Democrats were turning out in strong numbers at traditionally Republican redoubts, such as the Abba Temple Shrine facility on Schillingers Road, where Warren was working.

Workforce Development Alliance seeks director
The South Alabama Regional Workforce Development Alliance, representing the greater Mobile business, education and public spheres, has completed its strategic plan and is now in the market for a director to guide and manage the plan's implementation, according to Steve Perry,
executive director of The Forum, Industry Partners in Environmental Progress.  

Applicants should possess knowledge of the area’s business and public communities, preferably with a business background and strong leadership and communication skills, according to Perry.

The position will pay in $80,000-plus and applications will be accepted through the middle of February. For more information, open this file (note that the deadline has been extended from Jan. 31 to Feb. 15).

Mardi Gras Trash Collection Schedule Change
Because of Mardi Gras parades, Monday’s scheduled trash routes will be collected on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008 (two days earlier than normal).  This is for all residents on the north side of the City whose trash –  limbs, old furniture, appliances, etc. – is normally picked up on Mondays.

Bonner rep to visit
A staff member from the office of U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) will be making two stops in Mobile County Thursday, Feb. 7, to meet with constituents and help resolve any problems with federal agencies.

The representative will be available at Citronelle City Hall from 11 a.m.-12 noon and at Dauphin Island Town Hall between 2-3 p.m.

For more information, contact Frazier Payne, Bonner’s District Representative, at 251-690-2811 or 800-288-8721.

Here come da' judge
The investitute for newly-appointed Mobile County District Judge Bob Sherling will be held Friday, Feb. 15 at 10:30 a.m. in the ceremonial courtroom at Mobile Government Plaza downtown.

Presiding Mobile County Circuit Judge Charlie Graddick will administer the oath of office. Scheduled speakers include Ian Gaston, president of the Mobile Bar Association; U.S. Senior District Judge W. Brevard Hand; and the Rev. Dennis Eide, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church.
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