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Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times

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The Political Round-Up

Dodge ball; Philadelphia lawyers needed; voter turnout outlook brightens, then darkens again; the political scramble; adios, Rummy?

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
A late infusion of cash has boosted the prospects of Democratic school board nominee Andrew Davis, suddenly cast in some local political scripts as Dudley Do-Right to school Superintendent Harold
Dodge’s damsel-in-distress.

Davis reportedly received a $5,000 contribution from the local car dealers’ political action committee in recent days. The money likely will go toward a phone bank in the campaign’s stretch run. Presumably, the message to District 2 voters -- an area stretching from Fowl River in south Mobile County to Old Shell Road in Spring Hill -- would underscore Davis’ support of Dodge in contrast to incumbent School board member Judy Stout’s officially non-committal, though clearly skeptical view of Dodge’s performance.

To renew or not to renew (Dodge), that has been the question gaining steam in the school board District 2 race. Stout has side-stepped (okay, ‘dodged,’ if you insist) the question. But her previous actions and statements, as well as what she hasn’t said, suggest a lack of enthusiasm for Dodge. Presumably, area poker parties are competing to open a seat for her at their weekly game.

Endorsements and phone banks are prized in any political campaign, but they may pale in comparison to running as the GOP nominee/incumbent in a district that is probably 70 percent Republican. Even so, Davis is playing the best card in his hand.

The latest financial reports for Stout and Davis are as follows: Stout’s filed Oct. 29, and Davis’s recorded Nov. 1. The final pre-election reports are not due until Thursday, Nov. 2. 

Any Philadelphia lawyers in the house?
Sued in connection with his handling of a will, Circuit Judge-elect Stuart DuBose was accused of failing to exercise the proper standard of care in safeguarding his client’s interests. DuBose claimed a 40 percent fee or $1.2 million in defending a will that he had prepared for a dying man despite never meeting with his client. Meanwhile, as a plaintiff in another lawsuit, DuBose argued that he was completely disabled as a result of a malfunctioning La-Z-Boy recliner.

A civil case was settled in the 2003 estate dispute. The state Bar Association’s disciplinary committee also resolved the complaint over DuBose’s conduct, suspending him from the practice of law beginning Nov. 8, the day after the general election, allowing DuBose to be licensed on Election Day, a legal requirement for judicial candidates. The Alabama Supreme Court however rejected DuBose’s punishment as too lenient, putting in jeopardy his ability to claim the seat on the bench to which he was elected.

DuBose must again face the bar association’s disciplinary body. If he's found guilty of the complaints and given a suspension of his law license that overlaps either of those two dates – Election Day, Nov. 7 or his scheduled swearing-in Jan. 15, 2007 -- he will not be qualified to serve as judge, according to the Alabama Constitution.

DuBose won a hard-fought Democratic primary election over Chris Bailey by 93 votes to win the party’s nomination for a circuit judgeship in Clarke, Washington and Choctaw Counties. No one sought the Republican nomination. DuBose is scheduled to be sworn in to office Jan. 15, barring a setback before the bar.

The campaign demonstrated at least one thing clearly: DuBose is easily more popular among the general voting public than among his lawyer colleagues.

The following exchange which occurred when DuBose was deposed in preparation for the civil trial in the estate case may explain why:

Q: I think you testified earlier that it was untrue where you said: I've expected from the beginning that there was no legitimate basis for attacking the validity of Mr. (Joe) Sullivan's will. Is that untrue, in your opinion? 

DuBose: Yes, sir. That was an intentional misrepresentation from me to Mr. Mike (Onderdonk, Washington County attorney) to discourage him.

Q: Do you routinely send letters to other lawyers that contain misrepresentations?

DuBose: Yes, sir, I probably do.

DuBose’s attorney noted that it was DuBose's position that he was obligated to present his client’s case in the best light possible.

Absentee ballots show an uptick, then sag
Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis last week said requests for absentee ballots was sluggish, but he reported this week that the pace had picked up, an indication that voter turnout Tuesday, Nov. 7 may not be quite as low as once feared. But another update swung the pendulum the other way:

"As I indicated to you some days ago, there was a pick up in absentee ballot requests. That has slowed down. As of the close of business on Wednesday, the Absentee Ballot Manager had received 2824 requests for absentee ballots. Approximately 500 of these related to active duty members of the military or their dependents, to whom ballot materials were sent, but said materials were returned undelivered. Approximately 1200 absentee ballots have been returned as of the close of business on Wednesday (Nov.1). These figures are significantly less than expected and indicate that there will be low voter turnout on Tuesday (Nov.7)."

Looking ahead
If Gary Tanner defeats Ben Brooks to win re-election to the state Senate District 35 seat, Brooks goes back to representing District 4 on the Mobile City Council. But if Brooks ousts the incumbent Democrat, it could unleash a torrent of political change. Tanner may be expected to eye a possible return in 2008 to the Mobile County Commission District 3 seat now held by County Commissioner Mike Dean. Brooks' move to the political world of Montgomery would create an opening on the City Council representing south Mobile. Names mentioned as possible candidates in a special election to fill the remainder of Brooks' term have included former City Councilman Mabin Hicks and Marilyn Culpepper, director of the Historic Mobile Preservation Society. 

Adios, Rummy?
An intriguing scenario posed by a local Democrat plugged into the party’s national apparatus:

“If the Democrats win enough seats in the Senate to create a 50/50 split and Lieberman wins (as an independent in Connecticut) and caucuses with the Democrats, organization matters. Bush would fire (Secretary of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld, appoint Lieberman as the new Secretary of Defense. The Republican governor of Connecticut then appoints a Republican to fill the vacancy in the U.S. Senate.”

If it happens, you heard it here first. If not, the delete button is only inches away.
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