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Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
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The Political Round-Up

Matrix Group aiding in BP claims process;
Pittman with Byrne in Round 2;
Young Repubs meet at Buck's Pizza;
James likely to toss in towel Monday;
Matt Walker arraignment set;
Peterson has McMillan's back in Ag race;
Bentley begins Mobile push; Tillman on ballot; Technical oil rig update; Semmes vote Aug. 17;
Voter deadline July 2; GOP candidate forum; Riehm meets & greets; Sitting on the bad guys;
Wilmer to host candidates

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
State political consulting/communications firm Matrix Group LLC has been engaged to assist BP in the oil giant's dealings with various governments brought about by the April 20  Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and the resulting oil spill, clean-up efforts and damage claims process.

Matrix in turn has subcontracted with various governmental relations specialists including Taylor Harper of Grand Bay and Martin Christie, formerly of the Business Council of Alabama.

Harper, who has lobbied the state Legislature for many years, said his role and that of Matrix was less a case of lobbying than coordinating communications between elected officials and BP.

“(Matrix founder) Joe Perkins retained me to look after Dauphin Island and Bayou la Batre,” said Harper, a former Democratic legislator who once chaired the House Ways and Means Committee. “I’m not really a lobbyist in this situation. I coordinate with the parties on questions and report up the chain of command, up the BP pipeline.”

Christie is handling the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area.

To expect someone from BP corporate headquarters to come here cold and understand Dauphin Island and Bayou la Batre would be asking a lot, according to Harper.

“Dauphin Island in its uniqueness (isn’t easy for an outsider to navigate),” said Harper. “You’ve got the Town of Dauphin Island, the Park and Beach Board, the Water and Sewer Authority and the property owners association, four entities and separate from one and other. The way it is set up lends itself to confusion if you don’t know your way around. When you go over that bridge, it’s not like going to Orange Beach.”

Matrix Group has longstanding ties to Alabama Power Co. and various, mostly Democratic, political figures. The firm also has offices in Jackson, Miss.

Matrix itself is actually a subcontractor for a Washington firm in BP's employ, according to Perkins.

"We are a contractor for a Washington firm that asked us to facilitate communication with local governmental entities and to provide suggestions on how to make the claims process more accessible and effective," said Perkins.

Pittman backs Byrne
State Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, this morning will announce his support for fellow Republican and neighbor Bradley Byrne in the July 13 gubernatorial runoff.

Byrne will join Pittman for the 10:30 a.m. event at the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, 29750 Larry Dee Cawyer Drive, in Daphne.

Pittman will outline his perspectives, as a lawmaker, of Byrne’s background and legislative record, as well as Byrne's ability to lead Alabama through critical challenges such the BP Horizon oil spill disaster, according to a release from the Byrne campaign.

Byrne will face state Rep. Dr. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa to become the GOP nominee for governor against Democrat Ron Sparks this fall.

Collier on leave from Bayou contract
State Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Bayou la Batre, has taken a temporary leave of absence from an annual $50,000 contract with the City of Bayou la Batre as an economic development consultant. The state Ethics Commission advised Collier to step aside from the consulting arrangment as long as BP funding in connection with oil spill clean-up was going through the state, said Collier.

A former state trooper and legal investigator, Collier said he remained active in other business projects including logistics and investigative work for both plaintiff and defense firms.

Hudson to speak
Mobile City Councilwoman and county commission candidate Connie Hudson Tuesday at 7 p.m. will address the Alabama Farmer's Federation at the Jon Archer Center located at 1070 Schillinger Road North. Hudson is one of six Republicans competing to replace Steve Nodine as the District 2 commissioner. Nodine resigned amid impeachment proceedings against him. Nodine faces a gun/drug charge in federal court and a murder charge in Baldwin County stemming from the May 9 shooting of his paramour Angel Downs.    

Young Republicans
The Mobile County Young Republicans will meet Monday from 6-7:30 p.m. at Buck's Pizza, 350 Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile.

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
Leonard and Bess Rich will host a meet and greet with with GOP gubernatorial contender Dr. Robert Bentley Friday, June 25 from 5-7 p.m. at their home, 625 Cumberland Rd. E., in west Mobile. Dr. Bentley will field questions from those interested in learning how he will govern the state of Alabama if elected. Donations will be accepted, but not required to attend. For more information contact lrich@vp2020.com.

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.

Technical oil rig update
BP last week 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.

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.

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.
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