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The Political Fray

Nodine about to get feet on street;
Recount on; And why not, asks Chapman;
Town of Semmes vote Aug. 17;
Dresner Wickers driving Bentley;
Newcomb, others to board Green machine;
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
Ex-Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine will likely be freed within 24-36 hours with pending trials for murder and a federal gun/drug charge still ahead, according to lawyers involved in the case.

Nodine, accused of murder in the May 9 shooting death of his paramour Angel Downs in Gulf Shores, remains in federal custody while prosecutors pursue an appeal of a magistrate's order that he be released.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Cassidy ordered rigorous conditions on Nodine's movements and behavior, all of which Nodine pledged to observe.

Nodine has a job with a local construction firm upon his release, according to Gordon Armstrong, Nodine's attorney in the federal case.

Rarely is a magistrate's ruling in such matters reversed by the district judge, according to Dennis Knizley, who with his associate John Conrad Williams is defending Nodine against the state murder charge in Baldwin County.

“It was the right ruling,” said Knizley. “I don’t think Nodine is a flight risk or a danger to the community. The judge (Cassidy) doesn’t think either exists to any significant degree. Consequently, there’s no reason to reverse the ruling.”

Nodine was released on a $250,000 bond on the murder charge when federal authorities swooped in to detain him on the exotic "drug addict in possession of a firearm" charge.

State court officials here say they can keep the federal criminal justice turnstiles spinning with as many as 40 such cases a month if agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Drug Enforcement Administration only place their order.     

One potato, two potato, three potato, four ...
Local Republican officials announced early this morning that a recount of the Mobile County vote in the GOP primary for governor will be conducted Tuesday at Mobile County Probate Court.

The recount is contingent on the campaign of candidate Tim James paying the $5,800 cost of the recount by 2 p.m. Monday, according to Mobile County Republican Party Chairman Kyle Callaghan.

James trailed Robert Bentley by just 167 votes in the June 1 primary, apparently to finish third behind Bentley and leading vote-getter Bradley Byrne. Initially the James campaign indicated that it would seek a recount in more populated and GOP-leaning counties, but later favored a recount in all 67 counties despite the increased cost.

Callaghan's "24-hour" notice said, "The financial cost to the James Campaign is as follows: Mobile County Probate Court $4,600.00, Mobile County Republican Executive Committee (a.k.a Mobile County Republican Party) $1,200.00, and, according to Mr. Braxton Counts, Chad Tucker with the Mobile County Sheriffs Office waived the $5,000 cost for the Sheriff Deputies." Tucker said there was really no additional expense for the Sheriff's Department to waive because its involvement would not require any additional manpower beyond the regular on-duty shift.  

According to Callaghan, the re-count will begin at "8 a.m. sharp" Tuesday and "may be carried over into the next day ..." Each session, assuming more than one, would end at 5 p.m.

Under Election Re-Count Poll Supervisor Mrs. Allen Barnett, about 25 MCREC volunteers will assist Probate Court workers and 10 Mobile County Sheriffs Office Deputies.

Callaghan stated that each candidate may appoint a poll watcher, bearing an official letter signed by the candidate designating him or her as the candidate's representative, to attend and observe the re-counting of the votes.

Callaghan instructed the James campaign to deliver a check payable to the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee in the amount of $5,800.00 by 2 p.m. Monday. The check should be delivered to MCREC attorney Mark Erwin, with Satterwhite & Erwin Law Firm, 1325 Dauphin Street Mobile, Alabama 36604, 251-432-8120. Erwin served as James' local campaign chairman until resigning to concentrate on his ultimately unsuccessful run for district attorney.

No reason not to re-count vote, says Chapman
State election officials should proceed with a recount of the vote in the GOP gubernatorial primary to help determine a runoff opponent for leading vote-getter Bradley Byrne, according to Secretary of State Beth Chapman.

Tim James trailed Robert Bentley by 167 votes for the crucial second position. James has agreed to bear the cost of a recount

Chapman's memorandum to GOP state, Chairman Mike Hubbard, Bentley and James reads:

"Though the unprecedented primary recount should fall to the Republican Party, as the State’s Chief Elections Official, I believe I should continue to take the leadership role that the people of this state elected me to take by issuing this statement.

Mr. Tim James petitioned for a recount. The Republican Party chairman agreed to a recount, the Attorney General agreed to a recount, I have agreed to a recount and an hour and a half meeting was held on Friday in preparation for that recount.

Probate Judges from across the state attended that meeting, as did party officials including many of the party’s county chairmen – all in preparation for that recount.

A recount for Mr. James is the one thing that everyone has agreed to and he has agreed to pay for that recount.

The section of the Attorney General’s opinion pertaining to procedures after the recount only applies if the recount yields a different result than we received Primary Election Day, June 1.

As Secretary of State I believe the best course of action at this point is to proceed with the recount due to the fact that no one has disputed that Tim James is entitled to have a recount prior to the Primary runoff election.

Town of Semmes?
Residents of Semmes will go to the polls Aug. 17 to determine whether or not the west Mobile Community incorporates as the county’s 11th municipality.

Voting will take place at the Semmes First Baptist Church from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis.

The church is located at 4070 Wulff Road East. Davis said Semmes representatives had posted the appropriate deposit for the cost of the election.

The proposed area for the town includes about 1,500-1,600 registered voters. The proposed corporate limits encompasses most if not all of the Semmes First Baptist Church precinct but also parts of three other precincts --the River of Life Church precinct, the Azalea City Church of Christ precinct and the Semmes Community Center precinct.

A quirk of the incorporation election, noted Davis, is that a registered voter who has moved away from Semmes but resided within the boundaries after May 17 is eligible to vote.

A map of Semmes with the proposed corporate boundaries is available for viewing at the probate court offices in downtown Mobile.

For more information about the election, contact Mobile County elections coordinator Roxanne Dyess at 574-6080.

Doc's adviser
Dresner Wickers & Associates scored a big win in Alabama as general consultant, media consultant and pollster for Dr. Robert Bentley’s June 1 GOP primary campaign for governor. With the nomination now tantalizingly close, the San Francisco-based firm will play an expanded role in the Tuscaloosa legislator's surprisingly strong showing.

Bryan Sanders, son-in-law of ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, will take over as campaign manager and press contact for the expected runoff campaign. Sanders is a senior associate based in Little Rock. He has been with Dresner Wickers for a year.

The Dresner Wickers' roster of clients has included Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, former U.S. Sens. Phil Gramm of Texas and Paula Hawkins of Florida and international politicos such as Russia's Vladimir Putin and Boris Yeltsin, two-time President Alfonso Lopez Michelson of Colombia, and former Prime Minister Constantin Mitsotakis, Greece.

Newcomb, others to back Green for Baldwin DA
David Green, who faces Hallie Dixon in a Republican runoff election July 13 for Baldwin County District Attorney, will publicly accept endorsements, including that of vanquished incumbent District Attorney Judy Newcomb and "other notables," on the steps of the Baldwin County Courthouse at noon Tuesday, June 15, the Green campaign announced.

For more information contact Wynn Radford at 251-978-4068.

Who spent what and why?
The state Department of Public Examiners found the following area of "non-compliance" in its audit of the Mobile County Commission's financial activities in fiscal year 2009-2010:

The Mobile County Commission’s Travel Policy states, “In addition to an original itemized and dated receipt, all claims for reimbursement of expenses incurred on behalf of business associates must include the name of the associate and the business purpose.”

The Commission paid travel expenses that were not
in compliance with the provision in their travel policy that states the associates must be named and the business purpose of the meeting.

Recommendation: Travel claims submitted for payment by the Commission should be in compliance with the Commission’s Travel Policy.     

The Battle & The War
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

"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

For more information, contact ESRW Publicity Chairperson Mary Ann Baltzer at 251-929-2394 or

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.

New Bay Front Park
The Alabama State Port Authority and the City of Mobile will officially open Mobile’s newest bay front park Monday, June 14 at 2 p.m. Mayor Sam Jones, members of the City Council and the public will gather at the newly constructed Arlington Park to officially cut the ribbon and view a demonstration on the kayak and canoe launch conducted by area kayak enthusiasts. For more information contact Sheri Reid at 251-441-7001 / or Adam Buck at (251) 208-7816 /

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.

Scratch the Violence Luncheon Aug. 6
Tickets are available for the Scratch the Violence Community Involvement Luncheon, according to luncheon chairman James A.H. Blackman.

The event will be held Aug. 06 at the Figures Community Center at 12 noon.

"There will be an inspiring messenger, great entertainment, a hearty lunch and beautiful fellowship," Blackman promised.

For more information, call 767-1589.
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