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The Political Round-Up

Later school start no panacea, says Howell;
Byrne, Bentley battle; BCA backs Byrne;
No quid pro quo, says Newcomb;
Hands Across the Sand in Gulf Shores Saturday;
A political potpourri; Nodine car broken into;
Collier on leave from Bayou la Batre contract; Rich event for Bentley here;
Voter deadline July 2; GOP candidate forum

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
School board leaders across the state called for a reliable study of the Gulf oil spill’s impact on potential tourism dollars in opposing a late August school start date as a way to generate additional revenue for education.

“The 2009 study claiming Alabama could reap millions by starting school later reads a lot like BP’s disaster recovery plan,” said Alabama Association of School Boards Executive Director Sally Howell.

“It is full of gaps, guesses and errors – not to mention its assumptions were made before the economic downturn and largest environmental disaster in U.S. history," Howell continued. "Those assumptions are as damaged as Alabama’s waters and coast lines. If we go down this path and budget phantom numbers, we’ll be in proration. That’s the last thing schools can afford.”         

Schools are facing an economic crisis that is expected to intensify in 2011 and 2012, she noted.

“The BP situation has served only to hasten and deepen that crisis,” Howell said.

She  urged legislative leaders to replace the out-dated, tourism-sponsored study with a reliable, thorough and current cost-benefit analysis.

“We need to look at all revenue options and the educational impact on students and families,” she said, “but the premise that we can get more people to our ravaged beaches than came when they were in optimal condition is faulty at best.”

Tourism officials report that tourism has declined, yet the tourism study claims revenue based on an increase in tourism, Howell said.

Howell cited other flaws; for example, schools that start later, end later.

“What you gain in August, you lose in June,” she said, pointing out that, regardless of start/stop dates, students are required to spend 180 days in school each year.

“We aren’t creating more time for more vacations," said Howell. "Families fortunate to enjoy a beach vacation usually can only afford one per year. Most folks don’t take a second vacation just because school starts later in August."

Howell said she hopes and prays the Gulf Coast recovers quickly and tourism rebounds.

"It is unfortunate and ill-conceived that the tourism and summer camp industries are using the current crisis to repackage their age-old attempt to set the school calendar based on purported benefits to schools,” Howell remarked.

Byrne, Bentley battle
The two remaining GOP hopefuls to succeed Gov. Bob Riley will meet in a debate in Birmingham Friday.

The Young Republican Federation of Alabama will host a face-off between Rep. Robert Bentley and Bradley Byrne in the Cahaba Grand Conference Center, 3660 Grandview Parkway, beginning at 7 p.m..

Student Government Associations of the University of Alabama and Auburn University will sponsor the debate which will be broadcast live by and WAPI 100.5 FM.

A Debate Pre-Party will feature live music by Rep. Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) and his band “TokenYoko.” The Bentley/Byrne match will be from 8:30-10 p.m. and a 10-11 p.m. Debate After-Party will conclude the festivities.

The format of the debate allows each candidate two minutes for opening and closing statements. Questions will be asked panelists including Lee Davis, Host of the Lee Davis Show, The Source 101.1FM; Richard Dixon, Host of the Richard Dixon Show, WAPI 100FM; Ryan Jones, Vice- Chairman, Young Republican Federation of Alabama; James Fowler, Chairman, SGA, University of Alabama; Kurt Sasser, Chairman, SGA, Auburn University.

Jon Paepcke of NBC13 will serve as moderator.

For more information, contact Chris Brown at

No quid pro quo, says Newcomb
According to Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb, there were no strings attached to her endorsement of GOP district attorney candidate David Green over his July 13 runoff opponent Hallie Dixon.

And, said Newcomb, who trailed Dixon and Green to miss qualifying for a full term as the county's top prosecutor, neither former District Attorney David Whetstone nor current assistants in the district attorney's office had selfish motivations in backing Green. Eastern Shore attorney Ken Hitson, who placed fourth in the GOP race for district attorney, also announced his support in the runoff for Green.

Newcomb released a statement in the wake of a recent Eastern Shore Republican Women luncheon where Dixon and Green were on the agenda as guest speakers. Dixon distributed a letter at the luncheon that prompted Newcomb's response.

"The only commitment that David Green has made to the people endorsing him, that I am aware of, is that he will put forth his best efforts to represent all the citizens of Baldwin County. David's only promise to me was that upon being elected district attorney and prior to making any decisions on his final plans as to how he will move the District Attorney's Office forward in the next six years, he will consider and give fair evaluation to all the opinions of law enforcement, judges, prosecutors and citizens, no matter what candidate they supported in the primary election. I did not ask for anything else and I did not offer anything else," stated Newcomb.

Hands Across the Sand
"Hands across the Sand" will be staged in Gulf Shores Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on the Gulf Shores Public Beach at the foot of Hwy. 59.

The nation-wide event was organized to oppose off-shore drilling and promote clean energy.

The Hands Across the Sand website states, "No one industry should be able to put an entire coastal economy, marine and coastal environment at risk. It is not about politics; it is about the protection of our oceans, gulfs and seas. This is the coastal legacy that we must leave our children and grandchildren." 

BCA behind Byrne
ProgressPAC, the Business Council of Alabama’s political action committee, has endorsed GOP gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne.

“Alabama’s economy is in uncertain territory – from a seemingly unending oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to near record unemployment – and Alabama needs a governor who has the proven ability to lead and make the right decisions under difficult circumstances,” said ProgressPAC Chairman William W. Brooke, managing partner of Venture Capital for the Harbert Management Corporation. “ProgressPAC believes Bradley Byrne is that person. Bradley Byrne has been a tireless advocate for improved education, political reform and  economic progress in our state. Along the way, he has proven he is willing to say no to the special interests and to stand up for what is right for Alabama no matter the personal cost.”

Byrne has served on the state school board, in the state Senate from Baldwin County and as chancellor of the state's two-year college system.

BCA represents nearly 5,000 businesses and industries that together employ more than 750,000 people, according to BCA spokesman Ralph Stacy.

Byrne and state Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa will compete in a July 13 runoff for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Political potpourri
An accelerated schedule for an unanticipated special election to fill a Mobile County Commission District 2 vacancy prompted authorities to waive the candidates' initial 45-day pre-election financial disclosure.

Nevertheless early reports on the campaigns reveal a few nuggets.

Among the supporters of Ralph Buffkin, now an administrator with the Mobile County Sheriff's Department, are Matt Metcalfe, $2,000; Sonny Callahan, $2,000; Mike Tew, $1,000; Jack Williams, $500; and Mark Janowski, $100.

Councilwoman Connie Hudson ended 2009 with about $27,700 on hand, including $500 contributions from Tew and former Mobile City Council President Charles Chapman. Hudson's predecessor as the District 6 city council representative, Bess Rich, is a member of Hudson's campaign committee and, with her husband Dr. Len Rich, a $500 contributor to Hudson's county commission campaign. The Hudson campaign also boasts a $2,000 contribution from Roland McRae of Dauphin Island Parkway. Hudson loaned $20,000 to her campaign.

First time candidate Pete Riehm has a campaign committee that includes some veterans of the political wars -- City Councilman John Williams, one-time City Council candidate Art Slack and Hal Pierce.

Carmen Tillman, who owns a barber shop in Semmes, shows her father-in-law, Jerry Tillman, and her husband, Fire Captain Kenneth Tillman on her campaign committee.

School Board member Ken Megginson showed a campaign balance of $1,000 as the race got underway.

As of June 7, tow truck company owner Tommy Gordon had filed disclosures but they reflected little information or activity.

Riehm to speak at Korean War anniversary event
Conservative political activist and county commission candidate Pete Riehm will speak at 11 a.m. Friday, June 25 at a Korean War Veterans Association Ceremony for the anniversary for the Korean War. The event will be held at the Alabama Korean War Memorial at Battleship Park.

Brooks in Connie camp
State Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Theodore, has endorsed his former city council colleague Connie Hudson in her bid to succeed Steve Nodine as the District 2 representative on the Mobile County Commission.

“I know Connie Hudson to be a hard-working and conservative public servant, and she has the record to prove it,” said Brooks. “Her time in public office confirms that she has the courage to stand on her principles even in the face of great pressures.”

Hudson vies with five foes -- sheriff's department administrator Ralph Buffkin, retired Navy commander  and conservative political organizer Pete Riehm, Semmes businesswoman Carmen Tillman, tow truck company owner Tommy Gordon and School Board member Ken Megginson -- for the GOP nomination in the July 13 special election.

Brooks and Hudson endorsed Nodine in his hard-fought 2004 runoff victory over Buffkin.  

Hudson's upcoming campaign appearances included a Meet and Greet in Wilmer at the Wilmer Senior Center Monday, June 28 at 10:30 a.m., and candidate forums in Semmes Tuesday, June 29 at the Semmes Community Center, July 6 in Wilmer at the Wilmer Senior Center and at the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee forum July 8.

For more information on Hudson's campaign visit her website.   

Nodine car broken into
Ex-Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine's personal car was broken into about three weeks ago while it was parked at a friend's house in west Mobile County, according to those with knowledge of the break-in.

Mickey Dearmon of Semmes confirmed that Nodine's Ford Escape was broken into while on his property. According to Dearmon, he discovered the car's window busted out and the doors open and called Sheriff's deputies who investigated the incident. It was not known what, if anything, was taken in the incident.

Nodine's attorney Dennis Knizley characterized the episode as "no big deal." 

Nodine, who is now free on bond and residing with another friend in midtown Mobile, was in jail when the purported break-in occurred. Nodine faces federal gun/drug charges and a murder indictment in Baldwin County stemming from the shooting of his paramour Angel Downs on May 9. 

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 arrangement 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.

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. atat Westminster Presbyterian Church. After a short business meeting, the debate/forum will commence. All GOP contenders have confirmed they will be attend and participate.

The public is welcome to attend free of charge.

For more information email

Republicans vying 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.
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