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The Political Fray

Byrne comes out swinging in Round 2;
James likely to toss in towel Monday;
Peterson has McMillan's back in Ag race;
Bentley begins Mobile push; Tillman on ballot; Technical oil rig update; Semmes vote Aug. 17;
Dixon on Green endorsements;
Voter deadline July 2; GOP candidate forum; Riehm meets & greets; Buffkin backers;
Sitting on the bad guys;
Wilmer to host candidates

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Bradley Byrne's campaign launched Round 2 of the GOP battle for the governor's mansion Friday afternoon with an attack on foe Robert Bentley's "hypocrisy."

According to Byrne campaign spokesperson Marty Sullivan, the Tuscaloosa representative's pledge to forego his legislative pay for the final five months of his eight-year House career was hypocritical and insulting.

“It’s insulting that Rep. Bentley waited until his eight-year legislative career was 95 percent complete to say he wouldn’t take a salary," said Sullivan.

“He thinks he can fool the people of Alabama. Unfortunately his rhetoric doesn’t match his record. In 2007, when the Alabama legislature voted to increase their pay by 62 percent, Rep. Bentley had no problem taking the salary increase. Following the sharp increase in pay, Alabama legislators’ compensation – for a part time job – was higher than the per capita income in every Alabama county."

“When Rep. Bentley had the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is in 2007, he let the people of Alabama down. Rep. Bentley can keep trying to fool us, but actions speak louder than words.”

Bentley spokesman Bryan Sanders disputed the Byrne camp's charge about Bentley and the pay raise.

"Dr. Bentley voted against the pay increase and Dr. Bentley was the first representative saying that he would not take the automatic increase each year," said Sanders. "He has refused a legislative salary for the rest of his term until Alabama reaches full employment."

Sanders continued, "Dr. Robert Bentley's actions do speak louder than words: He is the only candidate in this race that will not take a salary as governor until Alabama reaches full employment. Byrne apparently will - even with unemployment above 11 percent and Alabamians hurting. Dr. Bentley is the only candidate to have authored and passed a Re-employment Act that will put 5,000 Alabamians back to work without increasing taxes or government spending."

Byrne voted against the pay raise for state legislators and refused to take the salary increase, said Sullivan.

Sullivan zinged Bentley's new staffers as inexperienced and ill-informed outsiders while also pasting Bentley as "an opportunist" whose party loyalty and conservatism were suspect.

"Since they're not from around here, Bentley's campaign operatives need to know Alabamians are a lot smarter than they think," said Sullivan. "People here know a political opportunist when they see one. Before Bentley decided to run for governor, he took all the taxpayer-funded salary he could, including the huge pay raise. Bradley voted against the raise and refused to take it."

"...when it comes to jobs, Bentley has lots of catching up to do," she continued. "For the past eight years, he's been known for letting his Republican colleagues down by siding with the Democrats and special interests against bills to help businesses grow and create new jobs. He even voted to raise taxes on small businesses to the tune of $100 million. Bentley can try all the political ploys he wants, but his record speaks for itself."

State Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Bayou la Batre, disputed the Byrne camp's characterization of Bentley's relationship with fellow House Republicans.

"Its totally untrue," said Collier, a Bentley supporter. "Robert is very independent minded and has made it clear that no special interest controls him. I am not speaking for him, but as someone that has served with him for eight years. Robert is probably the most socially conservative member of the legislature and just because he doesn't take his marching orders from the 'elite,' establishment wing of the party doesn't make him disloyal."

Collier said he backs Bentley and believes "most blue collar working class conservatives will as well."  

Sanders wrapped up the firefight: "I may be from Arkansas, but unlike Bradley Byrne, I never supported Bill Clinton for President. Alabamians deserve better than Bradley Byrne's desperate, misleading, and negative campaign. Dr. Robert Bentley has pledged to run a clean, honest campaign that focuses on building up Alabama, not tearing others down."

Some state politicos thought a Byrne/Bentley runoff, the Duke-educated attorney vs. the medical doctor, would be a civil, even sedate affair compared to the fisticuffs of a Byrne/James match, the "trial lawyer" vs. the jut-jawed contractor. 

James eyes exit
Tim James will hold a news conference Monday, June 21 at 4 p.m. at his campaign headquarters in Montgomery, according to campaign officials, amid heavy speculation that he will concede to falling just short of qualifying in the July 13 GOP runoff for governor.

James, who will retreat from the campaign trail for a Father’s Day weekend with his family, trailed second place finisher Robert Bentley by only 167 votes in the June 1 primary before calling for a recount. With a final count of paper ballots completed (excluding only a missing Mobile County box) and Bentley's lead up to 270 votes (227 figuring in the missing box's initial count), it was clear the recount wouldn't materially change the order of finish, leaving Bentley and frontrunner Bradley Byrne to vie for the party's nomination to succeed Gov. Bob Riley. The winner will face Democratic nominee Ron Sparks in the fall.

James campaign headquarters is located at 8138 Seaton Place in Montgomery.

Walker arraignment
Mobile entrepreneur and real estate developer Matt Walker is set for arraignment at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 30 in Mobile County Circuit Judge Rusty Johnston's courtroom. Walker is accused on four counts of receiving stolen property. Allegedly, he came to possess stolen antiques from upscale homes whose owners were absent.

Let's Roll
Dale Peterson has John McMillan's back in the July 13 GOP runoff for state Agriculture Commissioner.

'Thugs and criminals' beware.

During the primary campaign, Peterson's ad attacking the "thugs and criminals" harming the state and calling candidate Dorman Grace "a dummy" became an international internet sensation.

"Government is upside down and it's time to roll," says Peterson.

McMillan led the June 1 primary vote, narrowly ahead of Grace. Peterson finished third.

Bentley to Mobile area
GOP candidate for governor Robert Bentley will attend a "meet and greet" at 2 p.m. Friday, June 18 at the Lighthouse Restaurant, 12495 Padgett Switch Road, in Irvington-Bayou la Batre, according to state Rep. Spencer Collier.

Collier said Bentley would take a boat tour of the Dauphin Island, Coden, Bayou la Batre, Portersville Bay area to get a better feel for the area and a deeper understanding of the effects of the oil spill.

The public is invited to the reception and, while donations will be accepted, they are not required, said Collier.

For more information, call 654-1540. 

Bentley and Bradley Byrne will face off in a July 13 runoff election to decide the Republican nominee for governor of Alabama in the general election this fall.

Tillman on ballot
A Meet and Greet Carmen Tillman Fish Fry is set for Saturday, June 19 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Harmony Corners on Snow Road in Semmes. Plates are $6 with proceeds going toward Tillman's county commission campaign. She is seeking to succeed ex-County Commissioner Steve Nodine in the District 2 commission seat in a special election July 13. Tillman is one of six Republicans vying for the $79,000 a year office.

Technical oil rig update
On Wednesday morning, BP began a "suction process" that could triple the amount of oil being captured and sent to the surface. The process will take several days to operate at full capacity. The plan is for BP to mix the captured oil with compressed air and burn it at sea. This technology has never been used in the Gulf; but, it has been used in other places.

A June 8 report stated that the oil spill was at least 12,000 to 19,000 barrels per day. Based on the insertion of pressure gauges into the oil well, the new estimates are between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day. If these new numbers are correct, it is likely that the revised flow rate has been at that level since April 23 when the BP oil rig sank.

Some speculation has it that the Relief wells may not work. The fact is that Relief wells have been used to stop blowouts many times since the 1920's. Of course, something else could go wrong and it would complicate the process.

The following is an update on the Relief wells:

The Relief well strategy is to proceed with two wells nearly straight down to about 10,000 feet, and then angle toward the main well. At that point, the drillers will be guided by gyroscopes and magnetic sensors in order to get within a hundred feet or so of the main well. After that, they will lower electrical resistance sensors into the well to sense the steel casing in the main well and help guide the drill right to the main well.

Relief Well #1 was started on May 2, and it has passed 14,000 feet in depth on its way to about 18,000 feet.  The well went 10,000 feet straight down and then turned at an angle toward the main well. The drillers are using the sea floor information obtained from the exploratory well to speed up the drilling.

Relief Well #2 was started May 16, and it is around 10,000 feet down. It is close to the point where it will angle toward the main well.

Relief Well #1 is expected to be at the main well by mid-August. If anything goes wrong, Relief Well #2 will be called on to plug the well. The process will rely on the pressure in the main well to pull the well cement delivered from the Relief Well into the main well. The pressure from the reservoir will push the well cement up the main well and fill it to the top; thereby, overcoming the pressure of the blow out and stopping the flow in the main well.

Similar Relief wells were used to stop Mexico's Ixtoc blowout in 1980. The Ixtoc spill is the largest accidental leak in history. It lasted for 290 days. If the BP spill is contained by early to mid-August, it will have lasted about 100 days.

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.-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 person registered to vote in any precinct in Mobile County who has also resided within the proposed municipal territory for the three-month period preceding the election can participate in the election.

"For example, you could be registered to vote at the E.R. Dickson School poll, but if you have lived in the proposed municipal limits for the three months preceding the Aug. 17 election you could properly vote in the election," the judge explained.

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.

Newcomb, others board Green-Baldwin D.A. bus
David Green, who faces Hallie Dixon in a Republican runoff election July 13 for Baldwin County District Attorney, received endorsements, including that of vanquished incumbent District Attorney Judy Newcomb, on the steps of the Baldwin County Courthouse at mid-day Tuesday.

Among those publicly supporting Green, in addition to Newcomb, were former District Attorney David Whetstone and Eastern Shore attorney Ken Hitson who trailed Dixon, Green and Newcomb in the June 1 GOP primary.

"While David and I have not always agreed on his message, what has impressed me is that his message has stayed consistent and not varied based upon his audience," Newcomb stated. "I believe David will work for the good of all citizens and will make the tough calls inherent in the job of District Attorney with integrity.
I ask that before you cast your next vote for a new District Attorney in Baldwin County you ask the tough questions and demand specific answers about personal and professional character, ability to manage finances, leadership skills, the ability to work with a team and actual prosecutorial experience."

Newcomb released a letter further explaining her endorsement of Green.

Hitson said he believed Green's administrative skills and understanding of the distinctions between the role of the prosecutor's office and that of law enforcement would serve him and Baldwin County well. Green's plan to reduce the administrative load on law enforcement officers would translate into more effective law enforcement and smoother, faster results in the criminal justice system, according to Hitson. 

Hitson did not attend the media conference but issued a letter of endorsement detailing his thoughts on the choice faced by Baldwin County voters in the July 13 runoff.

Baldwin County's district attorney for 22 years before stepping down in 2006, Whetstone said, “The ingredients that are required to be an effective DA include leadership, integrity, and executive management skills. I have taken the measure of the man. David Green has all of those qualities. I am proud to endorse him to be Baldwin County’s next District Attorney. He will do an outstanding job.”

Silverhill native Dixon, formerly chief assistant under Newcomb and a former assistant attorney general, noted that the incumbent D.A.'s new-found appreciation for Green appeared to conflict with her campaign position that experience in prosecuting felonies, beyond any experience Green possesses, was crucial to leading 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."

Hitson’s support of Green, like Newcomb’s, contradicted earlier claims that prosecutorial experience was a necessary qualification for D.A., said Dixon.

“He now for whatever reason completely alters his point of view,” said Dixon. “Politics as usual. He says prosecutorial experience is critical to holding this office and attacks Green on his lack of prosecutorial experience to any degree. Just changing his tune when it benefits him. But it won’t change my campaign. We’ll just do it the old-fashioned way: Get out there and work to get the support of the voters.”

Whetstone's ties to Green's family explained his position, said Dixon.

“With David I understand – there’s two Davids, Green and Whetstone  – so Whetstone I completely understand; David Green’s father’s company is one of Whetstone’s biggest clients,” said Dixon. “They are longtime family friends and I understand those relationships – family friends and clients, I understand that. I can’t begrudge Whetstone supporting people who are close to him. I will say it was disappointing that he didn’t disclose that (business ties) publicly, but it’s okay, it’s politics.”

Harrell, Whetstone and Monaghan lists International Equipment Distributors (IED) among a wealth of representative clients on its website.

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 to sponsor forum for commission candidates
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. Contenders for the vacancy include Sheriff's Office administrator Ralph Buffkin, towing company owner Tommy Gordon, Mobile City Councilwoman Connie Hudson, School Board member Ken Megginson, conservative political organizer Pete Riehm, Semmes barber Carmen Tillman.

The GOP special election primary will be July 13.  

Murder suspect Nodine resigned instead of facing trial for impeachment.

The Wilmer Community Action Group will host a Candidates Night for the District 2 hopefuls and the public on Tuesday, July 6 from 6:30-9 p.m. at the Wilmer First Baptist Church. For more information, visit the group's Facebook page.

Riehm a rookie with a plan
Pete Riehm, a retired Navy commander and a conservative political organizer, has assured his crew that his campaign for the District 2 Mobile County Commission opening has a strategy.

"The most votes are in Spring Hill and City Council Districts 4 and 6," Riehm noted. "The county has less than a third of the votes, but they tend to turn out at higher levels. The other five primary candidates all have strengths in certain areas, but distinct challenges in others. So, one might poll 50 percent on his/her home turf, but maybe only 10 percent in other areas.

"We have analyzed the numbers and these combinations total less than 30 percent in a six way race," related Riehm. "We believe we have better than fair appeal and strength in all areas, so if we can poll about 35 percent in all areas we will be in the run-off in a six-person race. I think we can do much better in District 4 with (City) Councilman John Williams' support and in Semmes with the help of Billy Lucas, Ronnie Parker and all the other nurserymen."

Riehm will host a “Meet & Greet with Pete” at Wintzells Downtown, Wednesday, June 23 from 5-6:30 p.m. Wintzells is located at 605 Dauphin Street, and the public is invited.

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

For more information call Betty Beatty at 251-490-8351 or Andrea Fussell at 251-232-4936.

Buffkin backers
Real estate businessman Sam Marston hosted a reception for Mobile County Commission District 2 candidate Ralph Buffkin earlier this week. Among the attendees were Sheriff Sam Cochran, Roger Dixon, Frank Turner, Taylor Harper and Gene Eason.

Buffkin, an administrator with the sheriff's department, ran for county commission in 2004, but lost in a runoff to Steve Nodine, the former county commissioner whose recent resignation prompted the July 13 special election.

Others seeking the office include towing company ownerTommy Gordon, Mobile City Councilwoman Connie Hudson, School Board member Ken Megginson, conservative political organizer Pete Riehm, Semmes barber Carmen Tillman.

Sitting on the bad guys
The Mobile County Sheriff's Department is seeking prospects to become corrections officers at the Metro Jail. Candidates take an open competitive examination at the Mobile County Personnel Board. Pay ranges from 2,328-$3,723 per month; $27,946-$44,676 per year.

"... with a base pay of more than $27,000, plus $1,200 subsistence, plus some overtime, paid holidays, state retirement, Blue Cross Blue Shield, a brand new 24-hour gym, uniforms and training provided," it's worth a look, says Warden Trey Oliver.

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. 6 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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