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Chip Drago
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The Political Fray

Dems get short-term win, but GOP poised to rule;
The 'intriguing' Rick Kuykendall;
Voter registration deadline July 2;
Dems likely to hold onto to lead in U.S. Senate;
Sad note; First things first; Meet Pete 

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
June 1 primaries went about as well short-term for the Democratic Party in Alabama as its leaders could have hoped, but 2010 could ultimately be seen as a politically pivotal year when GOP advances at the local and state levels matched the state's red showing in national contests.

The good news for Democrats was the likely top of its ticket this fall -- Ron Sparks, Jim Folsom Jr. and James Anderson (in a runoff with Giles Perkins) -- a threesome that gives the party its best shot at preserving its advantage in the House and Senate.

But looking beyond the names to the numbers, state Democratic Party leaders have to be concerned.  

Possibly an anomaly or possibly a watershed, party primary participation in Alabama last week reflected a huge shift toward the GOP, like none ever seen before in a non-presidential election year.

On June 1, only 319,000 Alabamians voted in the Democratic Primary compared to 492,000 in the Republican Primary. Never before had the GOP had even one voter more than the Democrats.

Some GOP consultants believe it foretells the party's finding at long last this fall the Holy Grail it has sought so long -- control of both houses of the state Legislature.

"Statewide, the average Alabama county saw the percentage of voters who chose the Democratic primary decline by almost 35 percent between the 2006 and 2010 primary election," one of MBT's number crunchers reported. "In that same time period, the average county in Alabama saw the percentage of voters who chose the Republican primary increase by nearly 50 percent."

The calculations were done using numbers from a Democratic website.

The 'intriguing' Rick Kuykendall
Mobile native and class action legal maven Rick Kuykendall topped CNN's list of "Friday's most intriguing people." The 55-year-old attorney is working with lawyers from Louisiana, Alabama,
Texas, Pennsylvania, Mississippi
and Florida to prosecute claims
for those who have been hurt
by BP's Deepwater Horizon oil
disaster.

"I have prepared my entire
professional life for this,"
Kuykendall told CNN. "But I
never expected it to happen
in my back yard."

Since 1995, his cases have resulted in verdicts and settlements totaling more than $2 billion, according to Kuykendall.

Closing Katrina Cut
BP has agreed to fund the $15 million closing of Katrina Cut to restore Dauphin Island to its more recent natural state.

Must register by July 2 to vote in runoff
If you want to vote in Alabama's runoff election July 13, the last day to register is July 2.

According to Secretary of State Beth Chapman, people interested in voting can get the forms from her office's website.

The runoff on the Republican ballot is highlighted by the governor's race and also features runoffs in Baldwin County for district attorney and two county commission seats. The Democratic ballot features a runoff for attorney general.

GOP looks to come up short in U.S. Senate races
With primary elections largely decided, the U.S. Senate battlefield is mostly set, and it appears that the GOP will narrow its deficit this fall but probably not regain a ruling majority.

On the national political scene in an off-year election, the U.S. Senate tends to dominate the interest of the political class. Not so in Alabama. Because the GOP here has long had two entrenched senators in Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, the political focus tends to shift to other races. Sessions is up for re-election in 2014 and there is some buzz circulating that, at 67 (he's 63 now), with grandkids multiplying, and the dullness of life in the wilderness as a member of the minority party, Sessions may not run for re-election. If so, Sessions' retirement would be the exception, not the rule, for Southern senators who traditionally remain in office well into their 80's and 90's. And, quite possibly, in three years the political make-up in Washington could be completely different and Sessions could be eager to continue. Watch Sessions' fundraising efforts next year as a possible indicator of his intentions. Sessions, whose fundraising style is much more diffident than, say, Shelby's, has remained largely quiet four years out from re-election, allowing other GOP candidates, to plunder Alabama contributors to fund more immediate campaigns.      

Not surprisingly given their margin in the Senate, more Democratic seats are in play than Republican seats, 10 or 11 to five or six. Consequently, the Republican need a clean sweep to win back the Senate and that may not be within the realm of the possible.

The GOP is well-positioned to make big gains though and will take the fight to the Democrats who will be on the defensive on many fronts, according to a Republican consultant. The GOP was upbeat going into the primaries and remains upbeat coming out, he said. Republicans look strong in such battleground states as Nevada and California, he noted.

Sad note
MBT sadly notes the passing of Demeranville Florist, a presence downtown since 1889, which closed down on Memorial Day. Owner Bill Yost, whose grandfather launched the business on Bienville Square way back when, had been in harness there for 50 years or so. Yost will be an instructor at Auburn beginning in August.

First things first
BP has capped one thing, at least: information about efforts to cap the oil leak in the Gulf is not flowing nearly so freely with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's recent announcement that the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into the oil well disaster.

Holder emphasized that 11 lives were lost in the oil rig's explosion and the government plans to prosecute anyone found responsible. The laws that will come into play, said Holder, are: Clean Water Act; Oil Pollution Act; Migratory Bird Act; Environmental Laws/Criminal Investigation.

"Whether or not you agree with the political implications of Holder's threats, this seems to be a strange point in the oil spill mitigation process for the Federal government to be threatening the very people who are controlling the operations," noted one Gulf coastal resident. "We can only hope that the oil industry executives can stay focused on the emergency.

Baldwin D.A. rivals at GOP luncheon
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

Happy days & the more the merrier
Tommy Gordon Wednesday 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.

Meet Pete
Mobile County Commission candidate Pete Riehm will have a “Meet Pete” session in Semmes Monday, June 14 at 6 p.m.

The event will be held at the Semmes Recreation and Community Center, 10141 Moffett Road. The public is invited. Call 251/645-9009 for more information.

A retired U.S. Navy Commander, the campaign is Riehm’s first run for public office.

Riehm is one of six Republican candidates vying in a July 13 special election to succeed Steve Nodine in the District 2 county commission seat.
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Kuykendall