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Chip Drago
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The Political Fray

Baldwin D.A. hopefuls to speak at luncheon;
Will Bradley Byrne school AEA's Paul Hubbert
or will union boss teach Byrne a lesson?;
County commission race gets 6th GOP entry

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
The two remaining Baldwin County District Attorney candidates Hallie Dixon and David Green are set to speak to the Eastern Shore Republican Women's monthly luncheon Wednesday, June 16 at 11:30 a.m. at the Fairhope Yacht Club.

Dixon and Green finished first and second ahead of incumbent Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb in the June 1 primary election to force a runoff July 13.

Rebecca Byrne, wife of leading GOP gubernatorial vote-getter Bradley Byrne, will also speak to the gathering.

Guests and prospective members are welcome. Lunch is $16. Reservations should be made by Friday, June 11 to lhsundbeck@aol.com.

For more information, contact ESRW Publicity Chairperson Mary Ann Baltzer at 251-929-2394 or baltzerm@bellsouth.net

Big mo'
Though Bradley Byrne led the GOP gubernatorial ticket June 1, the post-election buzz was all about Robert Bentley and his unlikely apparent arrival as Byrne's runoff foe ahead of Roy Moore and, by an eyelash, Tim
James. In fact, many politicos see Bentley as the favorite over Byrne in the July 13 balloting. However, there are five weeks to go before voters decide the issue and if ever a year in Alabama electoral politics suggested twists and turns ahead before the finish line, this would be the year.

In some respects, Bentley, as the kindly, avuncular doctor, got a pass in the first stage of the election because he wasn't seen as a genuine threat. The combatants were Byrne, James and, to a lesser extent, Moore and, to an even lesser extent, Bill Johnson. Now, in a head-to-head match, Bentley and his record will undergo a deeper, more thorough examination. How that is managed may be critical to Byrne's prospects. Right now, Bentley is perceived as above the mud-slinging whereas Byrne and James were rolling around, eye-gouging and grappling in the ditch. With James likely out of the picture, though he pursues a recount, Byrne can try to dust himself off and proceed down the campaign trail. Clearly though, Bentley has to be challenged somehow and some way so that his negatives, and assuredly there are some, rise in a way to knock the Bentley campaign off its stride. Whether that is seen as "mud-slinging" or fuller scrutiny of the record will likely be in the eye of the beholder.    

As Willie Stark observed to Jack Burden in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, "There is always something." Stark meant dirt, but "something" could just as well be a legitimate issue that, when highlighted, gives undecided voters cause to reflect. 

So what are the pressure points where Bentley may be vulnerable. Clearly, the leading and handy one is the Alabama Education Association. For a Republican legislator, Bentley has enjoyed a warmer than average relationship with the teachers' union. That would fit nicely with a Byrne runoff strategy making the election a referendum on the continued control of the reins of state power by AEA's Paul Hubbert and Joe Reed. In that way, Bentley isn't so much demonized as cast as a dupe or tool of Alabama politics' master manipulators. Even if such a portrayal of Bentley is completely realized, it would be no guarantee of a Byrne victory. With lots and lots of money spent and anti-Byrne crossover voting in the GOP runoff by Democratic primary voters, the contest will be fierce.

Crossover voting by Democrats in a GOP runoff election for governor of Alabama isn't unprecedented. In 1994, Fob James, father of this year's apparently nosed-out Tim James, defeated Ann Bedsole to claim the GOP nomination for governor. The ex-Democratic governor, who had switched to the GOP, beat Bedsole, a longtime Mobile Republican, despite Bedsole's appeal for Democratic voters, especially women, to cross over and vote for her in the runoff against the more conservative James. Despite a surge in turnout from 359,000 in the primary to 460,000 in the runoff, James still easily repelled Bedsole 62-38 percent. Hubbert himself participated in that 1994 election, and not just behind the scenes. He ran for governor as a Democrat, losing the party's nomination to Jim Folsom Jr.    

Byrne, once a Democrat himself, will shout that Hubbert and Reed have saddled and ridden the Democratic horse long and hard for 35 years and now they want to saddle up a fresh horse, the Alabama Republican Party.

“If we see evidence that a Democrat leader is trying to have a coordinated effort to affect our primary, we will let our voters know,” state Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard said. “Democrats need to play in their primary, and we need to play in ours.”

But the GOP has no plans to ban crossover voting.

Still, Hubbard suggested party registration may be in the state's future, leading to closed primary elections.

Byrne can only hope that 1994 repeats itself with a former Democrat scoring a big win to get the GOP nod over a runoff foe who was poised to add nomination-clinching Democratic crossover votes.

Happy days & the more the merrier
Tommy Gordon today became the sixth Republican candidate to qualify in the July 13 special election to fill a vacancy in the District 2 seat on the Mobile County Commission.

Gordon owns Gordon Towing on Schillinger Road.

Mobile County School Board member Ken Megginson Tuesday confirmed his GOP candidacy in the special election.

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 a low budget, grass-roots campaign.

Megginson is known for his cheery demeanor and his signature farewell to "Have a happy day!" 

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.

Facing an impeachment trial, murder suspect Nodine resigned instead.

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.

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 has entered "not guilty" pleas to all the charges against him.

A detention hearing on Nodine is set for June 14.

Nodine remains in federal custody, although he made a $250,000 bond on the Baldwin County murder charge.
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