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Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
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The Political Round-Up

Kid rocks the box office; Mayoral musings;
Battle's eve strategy; More campaign filing
finger-pointing; Nickels & dimes; James' gang gathers at Rock Creek; Washington answers call;
Artur's back in town; Academy Night set 

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Bayfest's Bobby Bostwick figured he could not go wrong booking Kid Rock for this year's downtown Mobile music festival, but the chart-topping entertainer has proven to be an even stronger draw than anticipated.

"I guess we were told this on the front end by people who had done a lot of research," said Bostwick. "But Kid Rock has pulled more than I dreamed he would. He's a superstar right now on top of his game. But it'll change."

Rock has an especially broad appeal which makes him a natural for Bayfest.

"(Rock's repertoire blends influences including) Country, rock, pop, Mix 100, all different formats and that's a huge thing," Bostwick said.

Price and variety make Bayfest a terrific value, said Bostwick.

"Out-of-town people compare prices and see they can spend $25 at the gate and see all these different acts, including Kid Rock, on Saturday, stay in a hotel and it's still cheap," he said, "Go to Biloxi or the beach the next day. The value is outstanding and people see that and respond."

"People coming here see a better value than staying in New Jersey for whatever. It's amazing the people who travel here to see these acts."
Texas-based blues/rocker Delbert McClinton has also shown strong appeal, said Bostwick, perhaps in part because he complements Rock who follows him on the AT&T/IP stage. 

"Delbert McClinton appeals to a lot of people and he's just added value in front of Kid Rock," Bostwick said. "He's playing the same night on the same stage and you don't have to pay extra. That's added value."

Bayfest always has been considered an outstanding entertainment value, and never more so than today with ticket prices unchanged for the past several years from their already bargain basement $25 per day or $35 for all three days.

Bostwick said Bayfest keeps the price low because it can -- Bayfest has virtually no administrative costs because of volunteers and the city's willingness to allow Bostwick to oversee the festival in addition to his regular assigned job -- and because it prefers to -- a boost in ticket prices would probably be revenue neutral, with a smaller crowd paying slightly higher prices.
Of course, the $270,000 city appropriation subsidizes the event for attendees. A $5 bump in the ticket price would lift festival revenues by $1 million, according to Bayfest's attendance estimates, unless, as Bostwick fears, more expensive tickets depressed sales.   

"We'd see about the same income with fewer people (with an increase in ticket prices)," Bostwick said.

Music festivals can be highwire acts -- a sudden gust, the slightest breeze or catcall at the wrong time and the show ends badly -- and you do not want to fiddle too much with success, said Bostwick.

Bayfest has become an easy sell with both its audience and sponsors, said Bostwick. 

While much of Bayfest remains largely unchanged, said Bostwick, one welcome area of change involves Bayfest attendance by out-of-towners.

"Out-of-town just keeps getting bigger every year," he said.

Essentially, for $10 at Bayfest, a visitor can see an act here that he would pay $70 for elsewhere, Bostwick said.

Bostwick said he has tried to go to school on other festivals' experiences and one lesson is that a price hike at the wrong time can signal a downward spiral for a festival.

"You wind up with a smaller event," he said. "The problem is when you raise tickets, you make about the same income but draw fewer people. It would be a tough time to all of a sudden go up $15 or $20. This isn't the year for sure. All over festivals are in trouble. They started raising prices to try to get around it. Luckily, we don't have administrative overhead. It won't always be that way."

A hot time on the Eastern Shore
Political races have rarely been as contentious and never as expensive as they are this year on the Eastern Shore. But for the shouting it will all be over soon enough.

The take of one veteran political cognoscenti as decision day looms:

"It seems to be a tough year for incumbent mayors. Part of the problem is our economic recession. As tax revenues shrink, public projects get cut or eliminated and the mayor, like the quarterback, gets too much blame. I
disagree ... on Tim Kant. He is in serious trouble.  He
will be very hard-pressed to convert the anti-Kant vote from the losers, especially if (Bob) Gentle backs (Dean) Mosher.

Daphne is an enigma. It's the largest precinct in Baldwin County yet it draws a low percentage of voters. This is partially explained by the fact that Daphne is actually a group of 'sub communities' without a real connection to one another. A successful campaign must be a variety of
small campaigns. As for Harry Brown, he is a popular figure. With a potential drop-off in voter turnout each candidate must protect his base support while finding a way to run those small campaigns to increase turnout.  Daphne is also a community strongly affected by the black bloc vote which adds another wrinkle.

... Robert Craft's campaign ... was able to assemble
a highly effective committee (one of the best I have ever (seen) -- second only to Hoss Mack's crew). Plus Robert worked his buns off. Such a combination is tough to beat."

City sets battle's eve annexation strategy session
Mobile Mayor Sam Jones will hold a final strategy session on the City's annexation plan at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Government Plaza, South Tower in the pre-council meeting room on the ground floor, city officials said.

The proposed annexation includes parts of Theodore, Moffett Road, Windmill and Dominion/Wellington subdivisions.

Voting locations include:

The annexation votes will be held Tuesday, Oct. 7.

Political goings on
Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis rejected a bid to oust Mobile County Treasurer Al Sessions from office for violating financial disclosure regulations.

However, Mobile County Democratic Party Chairman Brad Warren was not satisfied with the finding that campaign inactivity for the years in question allowed Sessions to remain in compliance.

Warren wrote to Davis: "In the literature given to us by your office, and printed by the Secretary of State, it plainly states:

“An Annual Report is required during both election and non-election years. This report may be filed after January 1 and MUST be filed no later than January 31.”

There are no ambiguities in this statement."

According to Warren, Sessions filed waivers for the Jan. 31 filing deadline for annual reports for the years 2003, 2005 and 2006.

There is no provision for waiving the requirement for filing an annual report, said Warren who asked Davis to review his decision. Sessions' filing of waivers merely serves as proof of his non-compliance which requires his removal from office, according to Warren.

"We, the MCDEC (Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee), have brought this matter to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General," Warren advised. "It is our intent, that if Mr. Sessions is not removed from the ballot and wins the general election, to file a request for the revocation of his election certificate ..."

Democratic nominee Milton Morrow will challenge the Republican incumbent in the general election Nov. 4.

Davis said the grievance was properly directed to the district attorney's office. The complaint involves previous election cycles, not the current election cycle, said Davis, so election officials have no basis for removing Sessions from the Nov. 4 ballot this year. 

Just nickels & dimes in treasurer's campaign
Neither candidate's campaign was rolling in dough, if the 45-day pre-election campaign financial disclosures are any guide.

Sessions showed an ending balance of $1,472.05 after cash contributions totaling $3,750 and $2,690.67 in expenditures; an opening balance explaining the differential.

Contributors included:

Morrow's campaign showed an ending balance of $20.87 after generating $2,525 in itemized cash contributions and $1,400 in non-itemized cash contributions and itemized expenditures of $3,194.13.

Among Morrow's contributors were:

James gang gathers at Rock Creek
Early bird GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tim James met with about 50 prospective supporters at a get-together at Rock Creek on the Eastern Shore last week.

Hosts for the event were Mr. and Mrs. Clay Swanzy. Swanzy was chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. H.L. "Sonny" Callahan.

"We had about 50 persons who attended and I think Tim and Angela were well pleased with the good reception," Swanzy reported.

Among the Baldwin County and Fairhope business, civic and GOP leaders in attendance were:

James is actively campaigning throughout the state in a bid to secure early support for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nomination. James is a successful businessman from Greenville, Ala.

Washington answers call
Cleo Washington has taken over for longtime phone company lobbyist Bill Cobb as AT &T's chief of legislative affairs in Alabama.

An attorney, Washington was a city councilman and a state senator in Indiana before giving up his political career to raise his nephews.

Cobb, the husband of Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, retired from AT&T. He formed an independent lobbying concern, Bill Cobb & Associates.

Artur Davis to visit
U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, a prominent supporter of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, will visit a special meeting of the Mobile Area Democratic Association (MADA) Friday, Oct. 10 at Cafe 615 on Dauphin Street, according to MADA's Vance McCrary.

There will be food and softdrinks, beer and wine. The public is invited and welcome to attend, said McCrary. There is no charge to attend, but there will be someone from MADA on hand to collect donations from those willing to help local Democratic candidates, McCrary noted. 

"Please come out and enjoy this evening with fellow
Democrats and help support our local candidates," McCrary urged. "I strongly encourage everyone to make a donation to our local candidates at this event. Even a $20 or $25 donation will go a long way."

Bonner to host annual academy night
U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) will host his annual Academy Night 2008 Monday, Oct. 6 from 7-9 p.m. in the auditorium of St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile.

Academy night emphasizes the educational opportunities available at the United States Service Academies and provides information on the requirements and procedures for seeking a congressional nomination. Representatives from the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy will be in attendance and give brief presentations of their respective academies. A member of the congressman’s staff will also be on hand with information concerning congressional nominations and applications for students interested in competing for a nomination to the class of 2013.

“One of my greatest privileges as a member of Congress is to nominate qualified young men and women from Alabama’s First District to our United States Service Academies,” Bonner said.
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