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The Political Round-Up

Artur Davis may get intriguing consolation prize;
Riehm to run for county commission seat;
More winners & losers; Engineers & oil spills

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
U.S. Rep. Artur Davis may soon get a salve for his stinging defeat in Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary -- appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama in Montgomery, according to several informed legal and Justice Department sources.

In fact, the foot-dragging in filling the high-profile slot is now seen as an Obama administration calculation in the unlikely, though now come to pass, event of an early Davis defeat in his historic bid to become Alabama's first black governor.

Chances are good that the posting will be Davis's to accept or turn down. Davis has said he has "no interest" in the appointment, but if President Obama asked him to accept the position, the congressman would almost certainly accede.

State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks clobbered Davis in a stunning upset Tuesday. Davis had sought to bypass traditional Democratic power brokers on his way to broader appeal in the general election. The slighting of the Alabama Democratic Conference and the New South Coalition, coupled with his vote against health care reform, generated a backlash that hurled Davis to a crushing political defeat, one that Davis claims has extinquished his political aspirations.

As consolation prizes go for spurned candidates for high office in Alabama, the federal prosecutor's post in the state Capitol would be hard to beat.

Montgomery lawyer George Beck, the prospective appointee, has been in the holding tank in a slow-moving appointment process.  

Riehm shot
Mobile commercial realtor and political conservative activist Pete Riehm will formally announce his candidacy for Mobile County Commission District 2 in the July 13 Special Election at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Mobile County Fairgrounds on the corner of Cody Road and Zeigler Blvd.

A retired US Navy Commander, Riehm is making his rookie run for public office.

According to Riehm, Mobile County faces "many difficult challenges," including fiscal shortfalls, lagging infrastructure improvement, rising crime, and under-performing education.

Promising a "new approach," bold leadership and a comprehensive new strategy based on "sound and limited self-governance," Riehm pledged to restore integrity and confidence in the office and give the people a strong voice.

The Mobile County Fairgrounds is located at 1035 Cody Rd. The public is invited to help kick off the campaign. For more information, call Andrea Fussell at 251-232-4936.

Riehm is scheduled to address the Knollwood Republican Women's Club Wednesday, June 9 at 2 p.m. at the Gordon Oaks Retirement Center, 3151 Knollwood Drive. Riehm will speak about "the County, the Commission and his candidacy."

The special election to fill the remaining term of Steve Nodine who resigned last week will be held July 13. Sheriff's Office administrator Ralph Buffkin and Mobile City Councilwoman Connie Hudson have also announced their candidacies.

More winners & losers
A few stragglers came in late with their "winners and losers" offerings. Thus a bonus issue of Winners & Losers in today's buzz.

"Big winners:

-- BOB,

"In the Democratic primary for governor, some of the winners were the black political organizations, whom (Artur) Davis shunned. His theory apparently was that they could not really influence the black vote.  But the tally proved that they did, as they have for decades.

Davis's loss showed that being black per se, and all the newspaper endorsements in the world, won't get a black candidate enough of the black vote in a statewide election even against a white candidate. The voters are so spread out over such a vast expanse in a statewide election that any Democratic candidate -- black, white, or other -- needs the black political organizations as well as the other Democrat-leaning organizations and quasi-king-makers to inform and to motivate the voters.

On a different topic, the results of the Democratic primary for the state senate seat held by Vivian Figures show that two thirds of the voters in that district are not as delusional as Herman Thomas is."
-- LYV,

"Winners would be (Ron) Sparks and (Robert) Bentley.  No one expected those two to do what they did. Bentley's race is still up in the air.

From within the House we had three D's -- Gordon, Thomas and Saleem -- and two R's -- Pat Moore and Mac Gipson -- who lost.  The five members all were experienced, but local politics got into all their races.

Newcomb ended like I thought. You've got to go knock on doors and ask for their vote. Those who don't do that lose.

King just got way outside the Republican base. I funded King and worked for him 4 years ago. We haven't spoken since July 2006. Nothing wrong; he just didn't have time for the people in the party who are elected officials in the House or Senate. That is a major mistake.

Charles Bishop not winning in a primary for House Rep. seat was interesting."
-- GFM,

"Those who relied on gutter campaign strategies were the biggest losers, across the board. Alabama has become the political swamp for those aspiring to elective office who rely on attacking others as the highway to success. Voters rejected slimy attack ad politicians."
-- MPM,
city councilor

"Biggest loser: Jonathon Gray. I understand he got skunked. King, Erwin and Newcomb. Add that to his prior losses, and he is already a has been as a political consultant. (Editor's note: Gray may have avoided a shutout by notching a win with Mountain Brook Republican newcomer Slade Blackwell's upset over three-term incumbent state Sen. Steve French. Gray did not immediately respond to a request for details on his winning percentage in the current election cycle.)

Biggest winner: Ralph Buffkin. Ashley Rich's victory was certainly assisted by the strong support she received from Sheriff Sam Cochran and his department. With Ralph getting even more of that support, he should be the early favorite to replace Nodine. Add to that the idea that Bess Rich will run for her old seat if Connie Hudson wins the Commissioner's race, and Ralph is a shoo-in. (Editor's note: Rich has said she will not run for City Council District 6 if a Hudson win in the county commission race creates a city council vacancy. Rich previously represented District 6 on the City Council. She now serves as chairman of the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System.)

"We dodged three bullets yesterday -- Herman Thomas, Troy King and Mark Erwin.

The above mentioned candidates do not have the character to hold public office as witnessed by their actions:

We can all give thanks that justice was served to each of these individuals on election day."
-- SSC,
civil servant

"... I think Ron Sparks had a remarkable ride on election day. I think he was wise to embrace the gambling issue when no one else would touch it and I think this is what kept him afloat prior to Artur imploding. He has promised the people of Alabama the right to vote on this issue and I believe this to be a real hot item –- either vote it in or kill it once and for all.

He is obviously a viable candidate now and should be well funded going into the fall election."
-- TBH,

"I think with Artur Davis, it proves you cannot get away from who you are. I'm still shocked at the margin. Rich may prove to be a force here and serve as DA for along time. Byrne is losing early momentun. If Bentley is in the run-off watch out."
-- SPX,

"Winner: Initially – Paul Hubbert – he destroyed Artur and put Bentley in second place. Winner: Bradley – survived the onslaught!"
-- ALB,

"The District Attorney's race certainly had a  enough material for a feature article in the Sunday edition of the paper. Mark Erwin would have made a fine District Attorney. The sudden change in his political fortunes will be talked about for a long time.

The race for the Alabama state senate District 33 showed Vivian Figures to be much weaker than I would have thought. Though Herman Thomas lost by a wide margin he has a good base and will be much more competitive should he run again.

Robert Bentley was the big winner in the race for governor. For a candidate with little or  no name recognition he certainly did well against Tim James who has been running for two years."
-- EEL,
GOP official

Gulf Oil, a technical update
The leak which is a mixture of oil and methane gas is passing through the Blow-Out Preventer (BOP) which is located on the sea floor. The BOP is the set of valves that did not operate during the failure of the oil platform. The BOP was connected to the oil rig through a riser tube (steel pipe) that extended from the oil platform to the sea floor, a distance of about 5,000 feet. The riser tube fell and broke into pieces when the oil platform blew up and sank. A portion of the riser tube remains connected to the top of the BOP. The current attempt to stop the oil leak involves capturing the oil and gas mixture in a device called an LMRP. It will be connected directly to the stub pipe which will remain when the riser tube is cut off near the BOP.

Once the riser tube (steel pipe connected directly above the BOP) is cut off and cleaned to accept the LMRP cap, oil will flow freely into the Gulf for about 24 hours until the LMRP can be put in place. The oil flow rate after the cut is completed will be about 20% greater than it was prior to starting the cut. The engineers are hopeful that the "sealing grommet" in the LMRP will fit tight enough to give the LMRP a chance to work. A heavy drilling collar will be used to press the LMRP in place. If the LMRP works, an "overshoot tool" will be installed over the LMRP to collect the oil that is expected to leak from around the seal. The overshoot tool is a very heavy duty unit that sits tightly over the LMRP.

By cutting the riser tube just above the BOP, the heat from the 140 degree oil and gas mixture can be used to keep the mixture from forming an icy sludge inside the LMRP. Large amounts of oil escaping from the LMRP or sea water entering the LMRP will result in the failure of the process. If the LMRP works as planned, the new riser tube will stay full of oil (no sea water).  BP can collect the oil and gas mixture and take it directly for processing.

Latest info suggests that cutting the riser tube is not going well. Keeping the diamond saw cutting at a precise angle to keep it from jamming has proven to be more difficult than planned. Several small tubes also have to be cut to make room for the LMRP. In addition, the ROV cameras cannot "see" as well as expected. Additional dispersants are being put in place to deal with the "vision" problem. BP may start installing the LMRP at any time.

If the current LMRP device fails, there is another type of LMRP with a different type of sealing mechanism available. It will be tried before any other alternative is considered.

If both LMRP devices fail to operate properly, BP engineers have determined that the well pressure is too high for a new BOP to be placed on top of the existing one. They do not think that a new BOP can be held in place long enough to bolt it down. In addition, the engineers do not think the structure of the wellhead itself can hold the new BOP. Some say that even if the structure can hold the new BOP, the structure probably cannot survive the pressures if the new BOP is closed to shut off the flow of oil. This option is probably off the table.

As the next option after the LMRP, BP engineers are considering inserting several oil recovery tubes into the BOP and creating a huge pumping vacuum to pull the oil and gas to the surface. The process is similar to reversing the Top Kill pumps on steroids.

When a successful collection process is in place, hurricane concerns will be addressed by "hanging" the riser tube from a very large buoyant "Can" which will be located about 300 feet below the surface of the Gulf. Flexible hoses will connect the "Can" to recovery ships on the surface. The hoses would be disconnected for a direct hurricane hit on the site. This "Can" should be in place by July 1. BP also will install another manifold on the sea floor to reduce the stress on the LMRP and BOP.

Relief Wells: One of the relief wells is at about 12,200 feet deep and the other is at about 8,700 feet. Both wells are experiencing the normal problems of drilling in deep water. The oil reservoir is about 18,000 feet deep. The wells should reach their destination by mid-August.

Size of the Leak: The current volume of the leak is between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day primarily depending on the amount of gas mixed with the oil.
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