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Chip Drago
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The Political Round-Up

A critical foot fault; Politicos find success down south; Ludgood leaving?; Life's sunny on the supply-side of the street; Big deal, no change; City talks turkey;
Back to the future in downtown Mobile

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Did Big Luther Strange commit a critical foot fault in Mobile County? Conversely, does Little Jim Folsom owe his new lease on political life to the voters of Mobile County?

The answers are 'maybe' and 'why, yes he does.'

The boo-boo in Strange’s GOP bid for lieutenant governor may have occurred in Mobile County where he claimed about 9,000 fewer votes than fellow upper ballot Republican nominees Gov. Bob Riley and U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner.

Folsom defeated Strange statewide by a count of 627,424-610,309.

Flip those 9,000 Mobile County votes and Big Luther is a winner his first time out and the frontrunner to succeed Riley as governor in 2010 or perhaps even earlier.

Those 9,000 votes for Folsom echo all the way back to the 1950’s and the time of Big Jim Folsom, the days when conservative white Alabamians were less likely to vote Republican. Folsom, Sue Bell Cobb and Susan Parker clearly succeeded in tapping into a conservative strain in Alabama voters that has escaped many Democrats for several election cycles.

Folsom's well-funded foe, attorney/lobbyist Strange seemingly had 'Big Mo' on his side following his defeat of George Wallace Jr. in the party primary runoff election. Strange was (is?) a rising star in the state's political constellation, poised to assume Riley's perch in Montgomery. Folsom appeared to be an old war horse trudging toward the glue factory.

Surprise, surprise, Folsom won anyway 627,424-610,309, a scant 17,115 votes. And that's where Mobile County came in.

Atop the GOP ticket were Riley, Strange and, in Alabama's First Congressional District including Mobile County, Bonner. Riley pulled 58,690 votes. Bonner drew 58,481 votes. But Strange got only 49,507. Conversely, Folsom drew about 9,000 more votes than did either Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lucy Baxley or Democratic congressional hopeful Vivian Beckerle.

Lift Strange to the level of Riley and Bonner while dropping Folsom to the depths of Baxley/Beckerle and the state has a different lieutenant governor.

"The Return of Little Jim," a Mobile County production.

Riley and Mobile Bay
Like Folsom, Riley should bring a smile with him on his next visit to south Alabama as well. In terms of raw numbers, Riley earned among his biggest margins of victory in Mobile and Baldwin County with about 24,500 more votes in each than Baxley. GOP redoubt Shelby County took the pro-Riley crown. Baxley claimed her largest raw numbers' win in Macon County with about 2,800 votes more than Riley.

Ludgood leaving?
Longtime assistant Mobile County attorney Merceria Ludgood and the Mobile County Commission may soon come to a parting of the ways. According to sources, the Mobile County Commission does not intend to renew her contract which expires in about four months. Ms. Ludgood has worked in the county’s legal department for about 17 years and reportedly is compensated in the upper $80,000's annually.

The split has political overtones.

The County Commission’s three members are all Republicans whereas Ludgood is an active Democrat. She also formed a campaign committee in advance of a prospective run for the District One seat on the County Commission following former County Commissioner Sam Jones’ election as mayor of Mobile. However, though it remains a matter of legal dispute, the governor appointed GOP executive committeeman Juan Chastang to fill the vacancy and no special election was held. Ludgood is routinely included in discussions of potential District One County Commission candidates in the 2008 election cycle.

Ludgood said she had no comment.

Commissioner Stephen Nodine said “many administrative changes” may be in the offing for the county. He said no overtly political or retaliatory message should be read into the moves, rather the natural operation of government in a two-party democratic system.

“Whether it’s a county attorney or any other (non-merit system) position, my duty is to get qualified Republicans into positions of government to ensure conservative, accountable and consolidated government,” said Nodine.

Were the shoe on the other foot, a Democratic county commission would, and has, acted similarly, said Nodine.

Life's sunny on the supply-side of the street
The city Revenue Department's sales tax statistics related to the “Sales Tax Holiday” held in August, 2006 should buoy the spirits of adherents of the supply-side economic theory that lower taxes stimulate the economy.

Sales taxes for the month of August for this year and the two previous years are as follows:

"... we had more than 20 percent growth in monthly receipts from 2005 to 2006," said city Finance Director Barbara Malkove. "I think we can safely say that the holiday did not reduce receipts, but may have helped and encouraged sales in the area."

US Airways bid for Delta up in the air
If US Airways is successful in its hostile $8 billion bid for Delta, what would it mean for passengers at Mobile Regional Airport where both carriers fly?

According to the airport's marketing director Marc Pelham, the combined airlines might result in more flights and connections as well as a more robust company. On the downside, the deal would lessen competition which could lead to higher fares.

Pelham foresees "a healthier company," noting the profitability of the combined US Airways and America West company.

The fares could go down if the new company adopts America West fares or fares could rise due to lower competition.

Overall, "I think neutral impact," said Pelham in assessing the potential effect on MRA and its customers.

City Holiday Schedule Set
The Thanksgiving weekend schedule for the City of Mobile’s Public Works Divisions is as follows:

Back to the future in downtown Mobile
The city is moving to step back to the future with its plans to restore Royal Street and a block of Dauphin and St. Francis streets to two-way traffic downtown. Royal has for ages been one-way northbound from the Bankhead Tunnel.

But soon, perhaps before Christmas, Royal St. will be reborn to motorists headed either way. Dauphin Street and St. Francis Street will revert to two-way traffic between Royal and Water Sts.

The changes were made in part to accommodate the new Battle House Hotel and the RSA Tower, according to City Councilman Reggie Copeland.

"We might have it done with signage and traffic lights maybe by the middle of December, maybe even earlier,” said Copeland. “I can’t give an exact date because it’s being done in-house, not by a contractor.”

Copeland said merchants along the affected sections of the streets are delighted with the project.

City Traffic Engineer Bill Metzger said the current project involving Royal, Dauphin and St.Francis streets will cost an estimated $800,000 for signalling, signage, resurfacing and rebuilding medians. Royal will become two-way all the way to the post office at Congress Street. 

Other downtown streets among possible candidates for conversion to two-way traffic are St. Joseph, St. Francis, Washington and St. Louis.