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The Political Fray

O' happy day arrives in county commission race;
'G' man to help Nodine; McMillan tickled to lead; Rusty rumors; Newcomb nod to Green;
Lefty lawyer weighs in;
Oil spill day 50: a technical update

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Mobile County School Board member Ken Megginson Tuesday confirmed his GOP candidacy in the special election July 13 to fill the vacant District 2 slot on the Mobile County Commission.

Megginson said he will publicly kick off his bid for the office with a media event next week after completing some important school system-related business. Megginson said he planned an inexpensive, grass-roots campaign.

The former school teacher and Semmes resident joins a crowded field of Republicans vying to replace Steve Nodine in county government. They include Sheriff's Office administrator Ralph Buffkin, Mobile City Councilwoman Connie Hudson, conservative political organizer Pete Riehm and Semmes barber Carmen Tillman.

The Mobile County Republican Executive Committee on July 8 will sponsor a forum/debate involving candidates in the special election for Mobile County Commission District 2. The program will be held at 7 p.m. at a location to be determined.

Speaking of Nodine ...
The federal defenders' office here has asked to withdraw from representing former Mobile County Commissioner and accused murderer Stephen Nodine who drew a federal gun charge tied to his alleged addiction to prescription pain killers.

Carlos Williams, who heads the federal defenders office, is married to Nodine's erstwhile colleague on the county commission, District 1 Commissioner Merceria Ludgood.

"We see a potential conflict," said Williams. "I have filed a motion to withdraw for that reason."

Nodine is charged with murder in the Mother's Day evening shooting death of his paramour Angel Downs who died in the drive-way of her Fort Morgan Road townhouse in Gulf Shores of a gunshot to the head. Neighbors reportedly saw a red truck with public plates, matching Nodine's F-150 pick-up, leaving the scene shortly after the gunshot.

Mobile criminal defense attorneys John Conrad Williams and Dennis Knizley are representing Nodine in the murder case as well as a minor Mobile County drug indictment stemming from the discovery late last year by mechanics at the county garage of marijuana and prescription medication in his truck.

Nodine's court appointed attorney in the federal case will be experienced criminal defense lawyer Gordon "G" Armstrong, a private attorney who is on the Criminal Justice Act appointment list for this district. Armstrong has practiced law here for more than 20 years.

"I consider it an honor for the federal bench to have the confidence in my abilities to choose me for such a unique and challenging case," stated Armstrong. "I will find out as much as I can about the current status of the case and then travel to the Baldwin County jail to meet Mr. Nodine and advise him of my appointment. At this point, I have not seen the indictment nor the discovery so I have no information other than that Mr. Nodine has pled not guilty and the law presumes that he is innocent of the feds' accusation. I anticipate that this will be a very interesting case legally." 

With privately retained counsel on the murder charge, Nodine said he was not able to also pay them to represent him on the federal firearms charge and requested a court-appointed defense attorney. He has entered "not guilty" pleas to all the charges against him.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine "Kit" Nelson approved Nodine's request. Assistant Federal Defender Fred Tiemann stepped in for the initial hearing and asked for more time to prepare for a detention hearing which was reset from June 8 to June 14. Now, with the withdrawal of the federal defenders office from Nodine's representation, Armstrong is expected to stand with the reeling political figure.

Almost two weeks ago, in the wake of the sensational murder allegations against Nodine, federal authorities charged the the 46-year-old GOP firebrand with violating federal law by possessing a firearm while addicted to drugs. They allege that Nodine illegally obtained more than 2,400 hydrocodone (Lortab) pills at nine pharmacies in four states within a year. At the same time, Nodine possessed a county-issued .40 caliber Glock handgun, and other firearms.

Nodine remains in federal custody, although he made a $250,000 bond on the Baldwin County murder charge. A detention hearing is set in federal court next Monday.

McMillan tickled
John McMillan of Stockton was pleased to lead the GOP ticket for state Agriculture Commissioner in the June 1 primary and hopes to persevere through the July 13 runoff to claim the party's nomination and face a formidable Democratic nominee Glenn Zorn in the fall.   

According to McMillan, who pulled about 38 percent of the vote, Mobile and Baldwin counties were the springboards to his success.

"Baldwin and Mobile were unbelievable -- 10.1 percent and 11.4 percent of my votes," he said.

McMillan said the Montgomery Advertiser endorsement of his candidacy was helpful, but he lamented that papers who endorsed his runoff foe Dorman Grace did not interview or return calls from other candidates.

"I have been going almost two years, outspent several times over, hoped to make the runoff and mighty happy to lead the race," he allowed. "One on one comparisons are somewhat easier (so a single opponent in a runoff is a benefit)."

Rusty rumors
Talk that state Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, was endorsing Connie Hudson in the Mobile County Commission District 2 special election was circulating and had some basis, but requires further clarification, according to the school teacher/officeholder.

Glover said he got a call three weeks ago from Hudson asking for his support with Gov. Bob Riley who was expected to fill the vacancy with an appointee until a special election was held.

"I immediately called the governor's office and recommended her," said Glover. "Since that time, it was determined that it would be decided by election (with no initial appointment).

"Not only have five of my constituents declared as candidates, but they include one of my barbers and my school board representative," continued Glover. "I believe that any of the five that have announced would serve District 2 very well. Some of them have expressed interest in calling me during the campaign and getting advice. That I intend to do, but I have told them or their intermediaries that I will in no way endorse a candidate in the primary or run-off."

And, in any event, said Glover, he questions the value of endorsements.

"I'm hearing from people that endorsements from politicians will not sway them anyway," he said. "I hear from many people that they 'don't want anyone telling them how to vote.'"

District 2 once was split about 80/20 in the percentages  between city and county residents, said Glover. Now, he said, the break is probably more like 70/30 with the huge growth just outside the city's western limits.

Green to get Newcomb nod
Look for Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb later this week to endorse David Green publicly in the July 13 GOP runoff over Hallie Dixon. Dixon had served as an assistant under Newcomb until a split sent Dixon to the Attorney General's office for a stint. Newcomb trailed Dixon and Green in the June 1 primary election, with polling results, absent one box, as follows:

Hallie Dixon  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     9,897   33.02
David Green .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     9,224   30.78
Ken Hitson .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1,973     6.58
Judy Newcomb  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     8,877   29.62

"I will be supporting David Green for District Attorney," Newcomb said. "I will explain the many reasons for my decision later this week."

A call to Hitson wasn't immediately returned. He reportedly will return later this week from a holiday with his family. Green expressed optimism that Hitson would also back him in the runoff. 

Sheriff Hoss Mack will remain neutral.

"No, I will not make an endorsement in this race," said Mack. "I personally know both candidates and they each have respected backgrounds. I will work with either of them, whomever gets elected, and I am excited about that prospect."

Mack clobbered the provocative preacher Orlando Bethel to win another term as sheriff.

"Judy called me after the election," said Green. "She was very professional. She congratulated me on running an excellent campaign. She paid me a wonderful compliment when you consider we had been competing so intensely with one and other. She said she was supportive of me and I took that as testament to me of the type of campaign that we've run. She said she would offer her support to me in any way that I felt would be helpful. It was unsolicited and I'm very appreciative."

Green said his runoff strategy would be no different than his primary campaign.

"I'll do the same things I've always done: Be myself, don't compromise my integrity, campaign positively," he said. "We're all human. We all have strengths and weaknesses. All I'm trying to say is: Here I am, I'm running for this job. I've never run against an individual so much as I say, 'This is what I believe my skill sets are and I want to apply those to this office,' and that's it."

Green said he had heard the rumor mill chatter of a quid pro quo such as a job offer to Newcomb in exchange for her endorsement.

"Nope, there was zero discussion of that," said Green. "She never brought it up. I never brought it up. It never entered my mind and I doubt that it entered hers. You have to remember the fact that we ran against one another."

Although Dixon was not surprised by Newcomb's endorsement of Green, she noted that the decision seemed to conflict with Newcomb's previous contention that felony prosecution experience was critical to providing effective leadership in the district attorney's office.

"Regardless, our message remains the same: I am the only candidate with the qualifications to serve this county as its chief prosecutor," said Dixon. "My campaign will continue to be based on qualifications, hard work and commitment, with total transparency and a promise that we will not play 'politics' with an Office so critical to our safety and security. We led the ticket by earning our votes with our message and our work ethic." 

Dixon and Green will vie to claim the district attorney post in a runoff July 13.

Rescued before falling through the cracks
One last MBT solicited rumination on the political scene in the wake of last week's primary election results, this from a lefty lawyer:

"I think that both Artur's and Herman's defeat means that you can't continue to take the black electorate for granted. When Anal (Artur) voted against the healthcare bill in a state that qualifies as a third world economy, it rippled through the social networks - black and liberal - and made national news. I, for one, would never have thought that I would ever in my life vote against a black gubernatorial candidate. Many of us made a pledge to actively defeat him.

Then, he completely snubs the black power groups. Like him or hate him, it is just plain ole stoooooooooopid to piss (Joe) Reed off. And, unfortunately, there are still hundreds of folks that wait to the last moment to decide, and that's usually just as they're walking into the polling. Even I always look at the handouts that the groups hand out just to make sure I'm in sync with them. Davis wasn't on there.

I never thought Erwin had a chance. I was sure of it in the last few days before the election when he got himself all wrapped up in the Nodine crap. Ashley is one of the brightest and most able DAs here. She is highly organized in her work and has a boatload of experience. It's a tribute to something - don't know what - that Erwin made it as far as he did.

Herman's campaign was just more of that hubris in which the whole family appears to be cloaked. For all of Vivian's negatives in the black community, I wouldn't think that they would overwhelm a recent court case involving indecency.

As for Tyson, I've yet to figure out what the hell has gotten into him. After years of surviving one of the most contentious offices in a district where he is a member of the minority party (and is hated by law enforcement), he goes off and gets himself involved in the dumbest issue to have ever brought down a pack of politicians.

Judy's problems began with day 1. She had no friends in law enforcement and they have been gunning for her since the beginning. It seems that the new sheriff is bad about not standing up to her and the troops felt that she was a bit heavy handed towards them. Add to that just how big of a charmer she is. Of course, I would have thought that putting the DA's office in the hands of a neophyte would have been something most responsible citizens would have eschewed, but, hey, I live on this side of the river. (She certainly rode Nodine hard. I thought that helped her, but apparently I was wrong. The capital case they botched through overcharging that (Buzbee) kid, certainly didn't help.)

The weirdest thing that I heard during election day was my super conservative friends coming in and saying how they had voted out the incumbents. Now, if we lived in New Jersey or California I could see it, but here?"

Oil spill, Day 50: A Deep Sea Technical Update
The containment Cap added to the top of the Blowout Preventer (BOP) at the well head is recovering much of the leaking oil. The oil is moving up to a recovery ship under the natural pressure from the well and intense suction from the pumps located on the recovery ship.  Prior to the installation of the Cap, BP was recovering about 400 barrels of oil each day. The Cap collected 11,100 barrels on Sunday, 10,495 barrels on Saturday, and 6,077 barrels on its first day of operations last Friday. Low-end estimates of the total volume of the leak range between 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day.

In order to keep the Cap from blowing off of the BOP and sea water from entering the Cap, the vents have been left partially open so that the pressures can be controlled. It does not appear that water has managed to flow into the Cap or the suction pipe that leads to the recovery ship. The pressure of the oil shooting out of the vents has kept the water out. If the cold sea water mixed with oil at a high pressure enters the Cap, ice crystals form in the suction pipe and block the flow of oil. The operators are continually tweaking the vent valves to recover as much oil as possible.

At the end of the month, BP plans to replace the current Cap on the BOP with a heavier, better sealing Cap. That heavier Cap is under construction. It will feed oil from the well to a floating pipe suspended 300 feet below the surface. The new arrangement may be able to collect 20,000 barrels of oil per day. The downside of the new Cap is that the flow of oil from the BOP will be unrestricted for several hours and there will not be any oil recovery until the new Cap is in place and operating properly.

Ultimately, the Relief wells will seal the well in mid-August.
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