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Chip Drago
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The Political Wrap

It's my (tea) party & I'll cry if I want to;
Crawford out; Cox backs Rich;
Mack to truck preacher? Conflict nixes Hubbert; Herman Thomas available to speak

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Tea Party PAC of USA, a national political action committee registered with the Federal Election Committee, isn’t “trying to steal anyone’s thunder” locally with its endorsement of congressional candidates, including support for Orange Beach developer Peter Gounares’s GOP challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner in Alabama’s first congressional district, said Tea Party USA treasurer Kim Curtis, of Durham, NC.

Curtis said her organization is just one more brick in the wall of the Tea Party movement for a smaller, more responsive federal government. Gounares was nominated by Tea Party adherents in Alabama and got a thumbs up from the group's online vetting of his campaign platform, she said. Ms. Curtis pointed out that Bonner himself could qualify for an endorsement if the group’s online community believes he conforms with its ideals.

“He (Gounares) was nominated by two people in Alabama who became familiar with him through attendance at Tea Party events there,” said Curtis. “We did an investigation and research about his background, the issues and his stances. We posted the results on our website where we track the races. We put a poll out and members vote. There are about 800 of us. If a candidate gets a majority, we have endorsed him or her. It is not a vote for him and against someone else. The question is whether to endorse the candidate we are considering: yes or no.”

Curtis said Tea Party USA could endorse competing candidates if both got a favorable review in the online polling.

Tea Party USA PAC included a check for $35 to Gounares’s campaign along with its letter of endorsement.

Curtis said neither she nor
the organization makes
any grandiose claims
about the prominence of their role in the Tea Party movement.

“I don’t think anyone speaks for the Tea Party movement,” she said. “We may not be huge but we are broad-based, pretty much nationwide with members in all but a couple of states. A lot of our members for health reasons are better able to participate online. Our members read a lot and pay close attention to elections.

“We are not trying to compete with local Tea Party groups,” said Curtis. “We are trying to work in conjunction with all people who share the basic philosophy that sparked this movement. I tell everyone we want to work together. We are not trying to steal anyone’s thunder. I think we are all trying to do the same thing.”

Crawford backs out
Mobile County computer software engineer Victor Crawford has shut down his campaign for state Senate District 33. A rookie candidate for political office, Crawford said business and family concerns overrode his desire to hold office.

Crawford, 47, is the son of the late local civil rights figure Vernon Crawford whose law partner and protege Michael Figures held the senate seat until his untimely death in 1997 when Figures' widow, Vivian, succeeded him and remains in office. She is campaigning for re-election. Former Judge Herman Thomas is also running for the position. Although he was ultimately acquitted of all charges, Thomas faced trial for the alleged sexual abuse of young inmates, including the Figures' son, Akil. Both Vivian Figures and Akil Figures testified for the prosecution.

"... family and business in these tough economic times are of the utmost importance," stated Crawford in explaining his withdrawal. "... growing a company during these tough economic times is challenging and requires a great deal of attention also." 

Crawford said his father's example and Figures' service "taught me the importance of dedicated, respectable community and political leaders." Crawford credited Michael Figures as a worthy political leader.

"Since that time, we have not experienced that caliber of leadership in District 33," he said. "Michael Figures’ legacy set a benchmark for elected officials, showing that an effective leader must not be vain or self-absorbed. Being respectful, pro-active and effective in leadership are attributes of Michael Figures’ service to this district."

Vivian Figures agreed that her late husband was "the gold standard" for public service and whose legacy she had faithfully honored throughout her career.

According to Crawford, his exit should not be interpreted as an abandonment of the rationale for his interest in running: "While I will not seek election, I still feel strongly about a change in the direction of the leadership or a change in leadership personnel."

Crawford said the citizens of District 33 deserve a senator with "a good reputation, integrity and a clear vision for the community."

"My record speaks for itself," Figures allowed. "Talk to the citizens of District 33 and ask them what they think about my record and my service. I am Vivian Davis Figures. I am not Michael Anthony Figures."

"When I was elected to the state senate in 1997, I said that Michael wore a size 10-½ shoe and I wore a 7-1/2," said Figures. "Therefore I brought my own pair of shoes to fill." 

Cox backs Rich
Politically active developer Allen Cox has volunteered his support in Ashley Rich's campaign for district attorney of Mobile County.

Cox said he offered his influence in her behalf after working with the veteran assistant district attorney on several community projects, including serving together on the board of the Underage Drinking Task Force for Mobile and Baldwin counties.

"I had the opportunity to observe her demeanor and competency in the Mobile criminal justice system," Cox wrote in a letter asking his contacts to consider supporting Rich. "I am completely comfortable that Ashley can handle the legal matters and management requirements for the District Attorney’s office in Mobile county."

According to Cox, it is critical for public officials to involve themselves in the community outside of their offices and their daily routine. Only by interacting in the community can elected officials truly understand its needs and use their office effectively, said Cox.

"Normally I do not get involved in Mobile politics but I understood that the role of the district attorney in Mobile and other southern counties does affect the quality of life in south Alabama for all of us," wrote Cox, a Mobile native now residing on the Eastern Shore in Baldwin County.

He asked that recipients back the Rich campaign with a financial contribution. 

Mack to truck preacher?
A veteran bay area political consultant predicts incumbent Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack will swamp a challenge from fiery and irreverent Loxley preacher Orlando Bethel with at least 93 percent of the vote in the June 1 GOP primary. Not 100 percent? “Every tree has a few squirrels,” he noted.

Bethel, a 42-year-old Michigan native, said changes are needed at the Baldwin County Jail.

Hubbert not available
Local Democrats had hoped to lure AEA leader Dr. Paul Hubbert down south to headline a joint fundraiser of the Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee and the Mobile Area Democratic Association, but a scheduling conflict will prevent it, according to MCDEC interim chairman Reggie Copeland Jr.

The social event/fundraiser is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 25 at Cafe 615 on Dauphin St. in downtown Mobile. Copeland said organizers are working on a headliner to speak to the gathering. All Democratic candidates for office this year will be invited, said Copeland.

Thomas will talk
Herman Thomas, a Democratic challenger for the State Senate District 33 seat, wants to address as many community meetings as possible in March, according to his campaign.

"If you are interested in having Mr. Thomas speak with constituents in your community, please feel free to contact me at 251-709-8917," said Thomas campaign manager Kim Pettway.
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