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 The Political Round-Up

Judicial vacancy; Elephant envy;

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
​This and that collected along the political trail of late ...

Former Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas this week was disbarred in Florida. Thomas was disbarred in Alabama in the wake of sensational charges alleging that he paddled young inmates in a spare courthouse office for his sexual gratification. He was acquitted of criminal charges but lost his judgeship through state judicial disciplinary proceedings.  

The Alabama Democratic Party today caged the campaign of Harry Lyon for Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.

"It is the decision of the State Democratic Executive Committee that Mr. Lyon clearly violated the state party's by-laws and this, along with his increasingly erratic behavior, have undermined his ability to stand as a candidate for the Democratic Party."

On Monday, the State Democratic Party sent Lyon a letter outlining a series of increasingly disturbing behavior that violated the Party's bylaws and the Canons of Judicial Ethics including an apparent inability to conduct himself in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and an apparent inability to maintain the decorum and temperance befitting the office of Chief Justice.

Kennedy called for a meeting of the State Executive Board to take up the matter and Friday afternoon a five-member subcommittee of the Board met and voted to disqualify Lyon. The Board then set next steps to ensure the Party would be represented in this race in November.

"It is disappointing that this close to the election process we find ourselves without a candidate for Chief Justice, but are hopeful that we will soon have a truly qualified candidate and future Chief Justice," said Kennedy.

Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb is rumored to be the replacement.

The Party will open a qualifying period for potential replacement candidates. The qualifying period will open Monday, Aug. 20 at 8 a.m. and close Wednesday, Aug. 22 at noon. If no candidate qualifies during the qualifying period, there will be no Democratic nominee for Chief Justice. If only one candidate qualifies, that candidate will become the Democratic nominee. If more than one candidate qualifies, ballots will be mailed on Wednesday, Aug. 22 to the full membership of the State Democratic Executive Committee. Ballots will be due on Monday, Aug. 27 by 5 p.m. to the Democratic Party Headquarters.

The GOP nominee is Roy Moore, another ex-chief justice who appears poised to regain the post after defeating GOP primary foes incumbent Chief Justice Chuck Malone and Mobile County Circuit Judge Charlie Graddick.

The Alabama Republican Party responded to Lyon's ouster with a statement from party Chairman Bill Armistead.

“Judge Mark Kennedy and the Alabama Democratic Party have been trying to find a path to relevance in Alabama. Today they decided to remove Democratic Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee Harry Lyon from the ballot, thinking that would help their cause. Unfortunately for them, it will not work. It will only show Alabama voters what a farce the once powerful Alabama Democratic Party has become.

 “First they tried to remove Mr. Lyon with a trumped up charge that he was in violation of the Fair Campaign Practice Act. That charge was completely bogus and thus Judge Kennedy had to find an alternate excuse.

“The second attempt to remove Mr. Lyon shows that Democrats are truly liberal and out of touch with Alabama values. In a 16-page document that was used as ‘evidence’ to remove Mr. Lyon from the ballot, the Alabama Democratic Party provided copies of 28 separate Facebook postings by Mr. Lyon. In 15 of these postings, Mr. Lyon expresses his disagreement with President Obama’s position on same sex marriage and he continually asks Judge Mark Kennedy and Lucy Baxley their position on the issue. 

“Let me be clear, the Alabama Republican Party affirms its support of traditional marriage and stands in opposition to President Barack Obama's order to the Department of Justice to ignore the 'Defense of Marriage Act' and the Democratic Party's position in support of gay marriage. However the Alabama Republican Party encourages all individuals engaged in this discussion to enter into it respectfully. We do not condone hateful speech by anyone engaged in this debate.

“Democrat support of gay marriage became a national issue when President Obama came out in support of gay marriage. That was followed by the announcement by the Democratic Party that they were going to endorse same sex marriage in their platform. Since then numerous Alabama media outlets have attempted to get a reaction from Judge Kennedy and the Alabama Democratic Party, to no avail. With the removal of Harry Lyon as the Democratic nominee because of his opposition to the Democratic position in favor of gay marriage, it should be clear to every Alabamian just how liberal the Democratic Party has become.

“It should be obvious, now more than ever, that the Alabama Democratic Party has wholeheartedly embraced the extreme leftist views of President Barack Obama and other national Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank. They no longer represent the conservative, traditional views that most Alabamians hold. It is time for all conservatives to unite behind the only conservative Party in Alabama, the Alabama Republican Party.

“I would also like to offer a warning to any candidate that considers qualifying with the Alabama Democratic Party to fill this vacancy. Do so and know that you are joining the election as a member of the Party that supports same-sex marriage and that the Alabama Republican Party will stand shoulder to shoulder with Judge Roy Moore to defeat you and support conservative Alabama values.”

... veteran Mobile County District Judge Mike McMaken will retire Oct. 1. Who will succeed him? Among the possible contenders drawing mention are Walter Honeycutt, Jean Powers, Matt Green, Jay Ross, Jill Phillips, Jay York, Stuart Luckie, Grady Edmondson, Randy Crane, Barney March, Vaughn Drinkard, Cindy Powell, Jennifer Wright, Barbara Brown, Ed Blount and Ken Nixon.

A five-member judicial selection committee, headed by presiding Circuit Judge Charlie Graddick, will interview applicants and recommend three candidates for the governor's consideration. 

A second opening may follow upon the heels of McMaken's retirement, according to courthouse buzz. District Judge Charlie McKnight will be eligible to retire early next year and may choose to step down two years before his term in office expires.  

"Don't know," McKnight replied when asked if he planned to retire after Jan. 1. 

... Matt Simpson, Chairman of the Baldwin County Republican Party, called on Daphne City Councilman Gus Palumbo to remove the GOP elephant logo from his campaign material. Palumbo has declined.

According to Simpson, it is "disingenous and misleading" for Palumbo to use the logo because he isn't and never has been a dues-paying member of the Republican Party. Palumbo called the request "desperate politics" in an attempt to breathe life into the campaign of his council opponent, Dane Haygood, a member of the Baldwin County Republican Executive Committee.

Municipal elections in Daphne are set for Tuesday, Aug. 28. The elections are non-partisan. A Candidate Forum
is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 21 in the Daphne Civic Center, 2603 U.S. 98. Doors will open to the public at 5:30 p.m. The forum will begin at 6:30 p.m. Daphne has 20 local candidates vying for municipal office. For more information visit CommonSenseCampaign.org or call 251-626-7808.

... the Baldwin County Republican Executive Committee recently reappointed Sheriff Hoss Mack and picked Kathy Cowan Morelock to replace the ailing Don McGriff as its representatives on the state party's executive committee.

An Alabama native, Morelock grew up in Madison County in north Alabama, but she and her family have been Baldwin County residents after retiring to Orange Beach from West Palm Beach, Fla. 14 years ago. For the past 7 years, the Morelocks have lived in Gulf Shores. She is retired after working as a sales and marketing manager with Motorola for 15 years. She and her husband have one son and two grandsons. Besides serving on the Baldwin County Republican Party Executive Committee, she also serves as 1st Vice President of the South Baldwin Republican Women and as 2nd vice president of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women.

Asked to name her political hero, she said, "What good Republican didn't love Ronald Reagan? His quote quote pretty much sums up my political philosophy:

"We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefitting from their success -- only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development." 

... according to city officials in Spanish Fort, the razing of Causeway eyesores, including the old Ramada Inn and Woody's Motel, will begin soon and continue through the spring of 2013.

... Michael Lee, convicted for the shocking Macy Place home invasion and murder of Kyser Miree, was criticized for remaining silent at his sentencing and not expressing contrition. His attorney, Art Powell, pointed out that Lee did not speak on the advice of counsel because he will appeal the conviction and also not to taint the pending defense of his mother who is accused of threatening a witness in the case.

Road work
Mobile County Commissioner Connie Hudson's 2012 "Pay As You Go" road paving program totals $7 million including almost $3 million inside the city of Mobile.

Big winners were Mobile City Council Districts 6 and 7. District 6 Council got $872,750 for 33 different projects. District 7 was awarded more than 1.4 million, almost half of which will be spent installing a "roundabout" at the intersection of Museum Drive and McGregor Avenue. District 5 got $160,000 and District 4 received $125,000.

Click here to see the complete list.

Election kerfuffle
​Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis has filed suit in Montgomery naming Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman and Mobile County officials in a complaint that their actions allow some voters to cast regular ballots in precincts where they no longer reside.

The problem came to light, according to the judge, when the Press Register, which won the contract, mistakenly used the Postal Service's database rather than the state's voter registration database in printing courtesy postcards reminding voters of important voting information. According to the suit, election officials used cards that were returned as undeliverable to clean up voter rolls. Because of the snafu, about 20,000 individuals received cards that didn't correspond to the state's voter list.

Davis asks the court to find that voters may not cast a regular ballot in a precinct in which they don't reside. Rather voters who move from one precinct to another without updating their voter registration should be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, the suit requests.

Also named as defendants in the complaint were the members of the Mobile County Board of Registrars -- Virginia Delchamps, Shirley Short and Pat Tyrrell.

Both Davis and the Mobile Board of Registrars sought an opinion on the matter from the office of Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

"... when a voters name does not appear on the precinct voter registeration list, a voter may use the fail-safe voting provision to cast a regular ballot at his or her former ("old") polling place or a voter may use the provisional ballot process to vote at his or her current ("new") polling place," advised Brenda F. Smith, chief of the AGO's opinion division.

GOP HQ opening
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley will be the special guest when the Mobile County Republican Party stages the grand opening of its campaign headquarters at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6 in the Yester Oaks Shopping Center on Airport Blvd. A light dinner will be available. The event is open to the public.

The HQ will informally open Aug. 21 and hours will be 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays. Romney/Ryan items will be available. Volunteers may sign up at www.mobilegop.com.

Rooting for Ryan
Although she ran as a Gingrich delegate, Mobile County Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan is solidly in the Romney camp and enthusiastic about the addition of Congressman Paul Ryan to the GOP presidential ticket, calling him the "perfect complementary pick."

"His knowledge of the budget situation will be an excellent conversation with America," she said. "Young, energetic, smart, conservative, policy wonk, listens to Zeppelin, and sleeps on his couch in his D.C. office. Powerful team with a powerful message. Leadership is back."

Her Baldwin County counterpart, Matt Simpson, was pleased as well.

"​I like him," said Simpson. "He is a serious candidate that will honestly and knowledgeably talk about the issues. He won't paint a picture of lollipops and rainbows. Everyone knows the entitlement programs have to be addressed. Simply passing the headaches down the road to someone else is not Ryan's style. He will fire up the base."

Rail service summit
Restoring passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast will be the topic of a regional summit of mayors, federal officials and rail advocacy groups at 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 16 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Mobile.

Hosted by Mayor Sam Jones, the summit will feature Karen Hedlund with the Federal Railroad Administration; Todd Stennis with Amtrak; John Robert Smith with ReConnecting America and others who would like to see passenger rail service restored back to the Gulf Coast.

Mayors from Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana are scheduled to attend the one-day summit.

Damage to the rail lines between New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida after Hurricane Katrina caused Amtrak to discontinue service for Gulf Coast residents and visitors.

"Restoring passenger rail service is vital for the growth in our area," said Mayor Jones. "Potential employers and people looking to relocate their families expect to have rail service as an option. I am looking forward to working with leaders from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida on the best way to make that a reality."

The keynote speaker is Hedlund, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Before taking her current position in December 2011, she served as FRA Chief Counsel, providing legal oversight and advice for the agency's safety and passenger rail programs. She has led successful negotiations with several Class I host railroads to secure Service Outcome Agreements, supporting the timely obligation of nearly $8 billion in high-speed rail grants to thirty two states and the District of Columbia.

Bienville Square facelift unveiled
Bienville Square - the center of recreational and civic activities in the heart of downtown Mobile, will be getting a facelift.

Mayor Sam Jones unveiled several changes to the historic Square, which dates back to 1824.

"First impressions are important. Bienville Square is the first public venue that most folks see when they come into downtown Mobile. We want it to friendly and inviting," the mayor said. "Another great thing about the changes we are announcing today is that the work was done solely by city departments."

The changes include:







Bright Lights On Bienville
Instead of the normal yellowish halo of lights, city crews have installed bright white lights on poles throughout the Square and lining the walkway to the restrooms.

"It is our goal to restore the Square back to a point where citizens and tourists will feel safe, be comfortable and enjoy the beauty of one of Mobile's historic jewels," the mayor said.

The Square's Focal Point: The Fountain  
The iconic fountain in Bienville was cleaned, repainted and city crews installed new bubblers in the structure - which allows the fountain's beautiful water display. The fountain has not been fully operational for nearly a year.

City Departments That Performed The Work:
Architectural/Engineering, Public Buildings, Mechanical Systems,Electrical, Parks/Recreational, Municipal Information Technology.

The rift between former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis, who also bid to be the party's gubernatorial nominee in 2010, and the state party continues to widen and deepen in the wake of his switch to the GOP and now his invitation to speak at the Republican National Convention.

In a statement, Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy said:

“In a press release from the RNC today, Chairman Reince Priebus stated that Artur Davis will give voice to ‘frustration and disappointment’ at the Republican Convention in Tampa. Actually, his disappointment has nothing to do with the job President Obama has done and everything to do with Artur simply being a sore loser.

The only part of the electorate Artur Davis is giving a voice to are former candidates who lost their races and then go on to blame it on everyone but themselves.

With that said, between his penchant for changing his Party and positions regularly, and for not taking responsibility for his own actions, Artur Davis seems a great addition to the Romney campaign.”

Armistead Mobile bound
State GOP Chairman Bill Armistead will be the special guest at the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee's fall meeting Monday, Oct. 1. A 6:30 p.m. reception will precede a 7 p.m. meeting. The place is to be determined.

Mobile Democrats to meet
The Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee will meet Thursday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. at the party headquarters, 918 Government Street in Mobile. Party officials are recruiting volunteers to work in the campaigns of local Democratic nominees Christian Smith who is running for Mobile County Treasurer, and Herndon Inge who is running for State Board of Education.

Work on Water Tower scheduled in fall
Mobile Area Water and Sewer System (MAWSS) plans to paint the raised water storage tank on McGregor Ave. this fall.  

According to MAWSS officials, the aesthetics of a new paint job, while significant, are only a side benefit. The process will involve several steps that help ensure a safe and adequate water supply.

First, the two million gallon tower will be taken out of service and emptied so it can be inspected. During this time, the other water storage facilities in the MAWSS system will substitute for the Spring Hill Tank so residents will see no change in water pressure or supply.

An enclosure will drape the tank during the process to contain materials used in the repainting effort. The tank will be blasted both inside and out to remove the old paint as well as any rust or corrosion. All the blasting material is captured on site. Painting will involve multiple coats applied during ideal conditions to provide the longest possible lifespan.

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Need help with legal research or, for that matter, any type of research? Public records and other research? Witness interviews? Consider contacting former Press-Register investigative reporter Eddie Curran. For more information, call Eddie at 251-454-1911, or visit Curran Research Services.