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Building Relationships
 The Political Round-Up

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
​Mobile County District Judge Charles McKnight will retire at the end of the month.

McKnight, 68, said the time was right for him to step down. He said he planned to travel and complete a long-term project to restore an old Chris Craft in his workshop at his Fowl River home.

The county's Judicial Selection Committee has already met to begin the process of choosing McKnight's successor. The committee is headed by presiding Circuit Judge Charles Graddick and includes attorneys Danner Frazer and Judson Wells, also a former district judge himself, and citizen representatives Harris Morrissette and Chris Pringle.

The committee will interview the applicants and whittle the list down to three nominees, one of whom Gov. Robert Bentley will appoint to fill the vacancy.  

Interested candidates will have until noon Thursday, May 16 to submit their applications. 

The opening is expected to draw as many as two dozen applicants. Among the likely prospects receiving mention are Walter Honeycutt, a member of the Mobile Couhnty Republican Party Executive Committee and a former GOP nominee for district attorney; Matt Green, a municipal judge and principal figure in the  Brevard Hand-Alex Howard Chapter of the Mobile Federalist Society; Joe Basenberg, a prominent civil attorney here and a finalist in a previous appointment process; and Ed Blount Jr., who presides over drug court and once ran for a circuit judgeship against the incumbent Graddick.   
​                          _____________________

Gary Cooper, an owner of Christian Benevolent Funeral Home, is featured in a special exhibit at the National African-American Archives and Museum of Mobile through May 30. 

Titled “A Historical Look at the Life and Legacy of Major General J. Gary Cooper, USMC (Ret.)”, the exhibit features highlights of Cooper’s entrepreneurial and military accomplishments throughout his storied career.

The exhibit highlights Cooper’s significant military accomplishments, as well as his contributions as a long-time entrepreneur in the MobileL business community and statewide, national and international political stages.

During Cooper’s military career, he became the first black officer in the Marine Corps to lead an infantry company into combat. 

He was also appointed by President George Bush, Sr. to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Environment, and received the National Veterans Award in 2001.

Cooper also served as Ambassador to Jamaica from 1994 through 1997, an appointment made by President Bill Clinton.

In addition to his current position with Christian Benevolent Funeral home, a family-owned business that has been in operation since 1928, Cooper has played an important role in the local business community and statewide political arena for many years. 

The Mobile native is one of the founders of Commonwealth National Bank, the first minority-owned bank in Alabama. 

He has also served in the Alabama House of Representatives as one of the first African-Americans elected to the House since Reconstruction and as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

The museum is located at 564 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue in Mobile and is open from 9 am - 3 p.m. To learn more about the exhibit or to schedule a museum tour, call 251-433-8511.

World-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon and New York Times bestselling author, Dr. Benjamin Carson, will be the keynote speaker at the annual Baldwin County Republican Party summer dinner which will be held on Friday, June 14, at the Daphne Civic Center.

Matt Simpson, Chairman of the Baldwin County Republican Party, said, "We are very excited to bring Dr. Benjamin Carson to the people of Alabama and Baldwin County. His story is truly an example of the American Dream. Since his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, he has become a rising star among Conservatives throughout the country.
The American Journal has called him 'the new conservative folk-hero.' The Wall Street Journal had an op-ed calling for Dr. Carson to run for President in 2016. This truly is a wonderful opportunity for the people of Alabama to get to know Dr. Carson. We are also pleased that Governor Robert Bentley has agreed to come to the event and be part of the program as well."

Dr. Carson was recently selected by a committee composed of members of the House and Senate to be the keynote speaker at the 61st National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Dr. Carson's focus during the speech was identifying the problems our country currently faces and sharing ideas on how to solve them: by working together and exchanging ideas constructively, not through the veil of political correctness.

In his youth, Dr. Carson struggled with poverty, low grades, a horrible temper and low self-esteem, but it was his mother, who had only a third grade education, that encouraged him to strive for excellence. Today, Dr. Carson is a celebrated surgeon and a pioneer in his field. His autobiography "Gifted Hands" became a TNT original movie starring Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Kimberly Elise.

In 1987, Dr. Carson received global acclaim when he became the first surgeon to successfully separate craniopagus twins - twins connected at the back of their heads. In 2008, Dr. Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor in the U.S. Dr. Carson has also been named by CNN and TIME magazine as one of the nation's 20 foremost physicians and scientists, and by the Library of Congress as one of 89 "Living Legends."

Bill Armistead, Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, commended Baldwin County Republican Party Chairman and their executive committee for reaching out to bring such an outstanding individual as Dr. Carson to Alabama.

"Matt Simpson has shown true leadership in bringing one of the most sought after speakers in America to Alabama and Baldwin County. I have no doubt that everyone who is able to attend this event in June will be moved by the story of Dr. Carson and his vision for America. I look forward to welcoming Dr. Carson to Alabama on behalf of the Alabama Republican Party," Armistead said.

To purchase event tickets, please call Kathy Morelock at 251-980-6259 or visit the Baldwin County Republican Party website at 

Initially, the party sought to arrange for the stars of Duck Dynasty to headline the event. But the Duck Dynasty representatives ultimately decided for commercial reasons against appearing at venues with a partisan political connection. They would've cost $15,000. 

Carson's fee is $25,000.

Simpson alerted Baldwin County Republicans Saturday, May 4 that fewer than 200 tickets remained for the dinner and Carson keynote.

"We are about to begin advertising to the general public," he advised. "I just wanted to notify you all before the tickets sold out."

Simpson can be contacted at (251) 751-8535.

Mobile's Comic Cowboys have called on its members to "get off your horses, dig in your saddlebags and send a contribution" in support of Sandy Stimpson's campaign for mayor of Mobile. The letter that was sent out this week touts Stimpson's qualifications and notes other organizations in Stimpson's camp, including the new car dealers association and a firefighters' union local.

Sandy Stimpson, a candidate for mayor in Mobile's city elections Aug. 27, already has his first two days in office planned.​

On the second day, he will head down to the City Council offices, collect the council members and march back to the mayor's office where together they will remove the door from its hinges.

On the first day? That will be dedicated to dance lessons, said Stimpson, alluding to his "Harlem Shake" dance video that created a stir on You Tube. Feedback suggested Mobilians would be more comfortable with a dancing mayor if he was better at it, said Stimpson.

Stimpson remarks were delivered during his kick-off rally Saturday. A lively and diverse crowd of 1,000 or more filled the hall at the fairgrounds in west Mobile.

Among the dignitaries spotted in the gathering were state Reps. Jamie Ison and Randy Davis, City Councilman John Williams, Sheriff Sam Cochran, state GOP vice president George Williams, Mobile County Republican chairperson Terry Lathan, former state Sen. George Callahan and ex-Public Service Commissioner Jim Zeigler.

Retired banker and community volunteer Joel Daves announced his campaign for the District 5 seat on the Mobile City Council. Daves hopes to succeed octogenarian City Council President Reggie Copeland. Copeland is retiring. He is the only representative District 5 has had since the inception of the mayor/council government in 1985.  
Daves stated: "The future is bright for Mobile, but we have to be disciplined as leaders and steer our city in the right direction and do so with everyone at the table. Over the past six months I have spoken to citizens and city employees, I have met with neighborhood groups, with pastors and with small business owners. I have met with firemen and have talked with police captains, lieutenants, sergeants and with patrolmen on the beat. I have listened to these folks as they told me about their dreams for our city and how they think the city can be improved. They want the same things the rest of us want: a clean, safe city that is fun to live in and has opportunities for all of us to grow and succeed. If we are to achieve this vision we cannot be divided. Our future depends on our ability to unite and move forward together.

"My campaign is based on a principle that I learned many years ago in the banking business. The customer is always right. Sometimes that can be hard, but you know, it is important that we never forget who pays the bills in city hall and that those tax dollars don't come easy. Which means we must spend them wisely. I will take my experience in business with me to my first day on the job and work shoulder to shoulder with the council, the mayor and the city staff to create strong fiscal policy that protects our city's future.

Our employees are our greatest asset and they deserve the security of knowing that our priorities are in order and that we will never forget the hard work they do for this community - we will show our commitment to them by our daily work to keep our finances sound and our savings account full. When we strengthen our finances, we can afford to take care of that which our citizens deserve and expect - public safety. Every tax dollar we save and spend wisely can be put to good use by our police and fire departments.

Strong leadership in our spending habits can and will create dollars that help take care of those who take care of us by providing better training, equipment, and the one thing they deserve most - a fair compensation package. We can't continue to ask our police and fire departments to do more, while we do less and less to support them.

Lastly, but just as important - we must provide leadership in the area of business services. Our small business community is the life blood of Mobile and they are not properly supported. Every day some energetic and enthusiastic entrepreneur is planning a new venture, a job creating venture that streams tax dollars into the city's bank account. But we fail to encourage that venture. Instead of making it easy and supporting that business owner, we make it hard and complicated. That must end."

For more information visit his website.   

A fundraiser was held recently at John Word's The Captain Table Restaurant & Jazz Cafe to benefit Mobile City Councilwoman Gina Gregory's bid for re-election this summer.

A $250 per couple contribution was requested.

Hosts of the even included:

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