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The Political Round-Up

Really red or true blue?; Wing shot off;
Ratliff out, Corte in; Alfa endorsements;
A common sense minute;
Happy birthday, Mobile County;
Parole denied for 'Bay Minette Rapist'

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
A prospective Republican judicial nominee can expect an awkward interview tonight when local GOP officials convene to vet candidates in next year's party primary elections.

Mobile attorney Eaton Barnard and his law firm have apparently contributed financially to the campaigns of a number of Democrats over the years. While such activity doesn't disqualify the donor from running for office as a Republican, the local executive committee's policy calls for informing voters of opposition party support that transcends a personal vote.     

Barnard, a first time candidate, and state Sen. Ben Brooks are running for a circuit judgeship that Judge Jim Wood will vacate next year. Because Wood, a Democrat, is more than 70 years old, he is barred from seeking re-election. No Democratic contenders have yet entered the race.

Among the Democrats that Barnard and/or his firm have contributed to over the past 15 years are:


In the 1990's, Barnard also backed then Democrat, now Republican Terry L. Butts, Roger Monroe, Doug Johnstone, Kenneth Ingram and Don Womack.

Other than contributions to the GOP or his own campaign, Brooks only apparent contribution was a $5,000 donation from his campaign fund in February, 2007 to fellow Republican and south Mobile County legislator Spencer Collier.

Barnard, who has emphasized in his campaign his standing as an attorney rather than a politician, defended the contributions as less political than grounded in his beliefs about the legal system and relationships with fellow lawyers.

In reviewing his history of political contributions, Barnard said they were all made to lawyers.

"Every contribution I have ever made was made to a lawyer," said Barnard. "Most of those lawyers I knew personally or felt they were most qualified for the positions they sought. I also gave to Republicans. My contributions were based upon my knowledge of the person and the position and not party affiliation."

Barnard cited a number of GOP candidates to whom he gave campaign contributions. Among them were:


Barnard also pointed out that he had neatly balanced the scales in the past 10 years, making 12 donations, all to lawyers, six of them Republicans and six Democrats.

Brooks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The candidates are scheduled to meet Tuesday night with the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee's judicial candidates subcommittee, chaired by local attorney Brian Pugh.
 
MCREC Chairwoman Terry Lathan, declining to speak specifically to the Barnard/Brooks race, said the party has a standing rule that is intended not to embarrass or discredit a candidate but to inform GOP voters so that they are better able to address the political beliefs of the various candidates. In fact, she suggested the practice was also a service to the candidate by bringing an issue that might be campaign gossip into the open so the candidate could explain the activities and satisfy voters of his Republican loyalties.      

“The subcommittee of the Mobile County Republican Executive Committee meets with the candidates, the non-incumbent candidates, for about half an hour to familiarize itself and ultimately the entire committee and Republican voters with the candidate’s recent political past,” said Lathan.

“It is not a process to endorse someone or turn thumbs down on someone," she continued. "It is simply to determine the facts and abide by our standing rule. It is not something we just made up. The standing rule is in our bylaws. If a candidate in the last four years has given support to a member of another party, other than by a personal vote, MCREC may share that information with Republican voters. And that’s what we intend to do in all relevant cases.”   

A second "relevant case" may have arisen Tuesday night, but for the reported withdrawal of Mobile attorney Michael Wing from his previously announced GOP primary challenge to incumbent Circuit Judge Rusty Johnston. Wing was in a jury trial Tuesday and not immediately available to confirm his change of heart, according to his secretary. However, courthouse sources inform that Wing has spoken of his about-face and GOP officials said Wing notified them that he had reconsidered. Wing has feuded nastily with Johnston in recent years over the judge's adverse rulings. In fact, according to other courthouse sources, Wing's charges reached such levels that Johnston has filed a complaint against Wing with the state Bar Association. According to a Bar source, Wing can expect to be privately reprimanded. 

Wing contributed to four Democratic judicial candidates over the past 10 years -- Paseur, Cobb, Anderson and John England -- but none within the past four years. So had he remained in the race, MCREC likely would not have stamped him with a blue D for GOP voters.      

Issues of party loyalty have flavored local GOP politics for several years with the steady migration of white Democrats into the Republican fold, as well as the possibly related instances of support for "more conservative" third party candidates. Earlier this year MCREC weathered a dust-up over the status of MCREC members Mike Burdine and Lee James who praised Constitution Party nominee Bill Atkinson as the true conservative in his battle with Republican nominee and ultimate winner David Sessions for the House District 105  seat.

Tyrrell tapped
Gov. Robert Bentley has tapped Pat Tyrrell to join holdovers Shirley Short and Virginia Delchamps on the Mobile County Board of Registrars. Tyrrell is the wife of local Bentley backer Tommy Tyrrell.

Pete Riehm Launches "Restoring
Common Sense Radio Town Hall"
Pete Riehm, a GOP congressional candidate in the First District of Alabama, Dec. 1 will launch "Restoring Common Sense Radio Town Hall" every Thursday evening 8-9 p.m. on FMTalk 106.5. Riehm, along with Joy Hansel and Mike Matthews, will host a one-hour radio town hall about national issues and how we restore Common Sense to Congress.

Upcoming events in Riehm's campaign include:


For more information on Riehm's campaign visit www.VotePeteRiehm.com.

Other challengers to veteran Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner are Pete Gounares and Dean Young.

Out with the old, in with the old at MSA
Under pressure for financial irregularities, a “burned out” Bud Ratliff has resigned as director of the Mobile Sports Authority here and the MSA quickly tapped former sports commission chief Danny Corte to man the post until a new permanent executive director can be brought aboard.

Though MSA apparently was not short any funds, MSA board members reportedly were troubled by questionable transactions. Ratliff insisted that he had done nothing wrong, instead attributing his exit to burn out and frustration.

A lack of facilities across the sporting spectrum frustrated his efforts to land events, said Ratliff who said he hoped to redirect his energies toward developing facilities and building an infrastructure that would enable a Sports Authority to function meaningfully.

Nothing sums up the state of youth sports and the dearth of facilities in Mobile County as well as a recent report that Mobile’s youth soccer program holds its annual tournament in Baldwin County, Ratliff noted.

“I think it’s time to work on facilities -- an Olympic pool, more tennis facilities, soccer fields, baseball fields, you name it, we need it,” he said. “We’re champions in one category: the county with the biggest population and the fewest facilities, the fewest good facilities.”

Sports in the U.S. is a $7 billion industry, Ratliff said,”and we’re really on the short end of the stick with that. We’ve given up. Like with Baldwin County and soccer. We’ve waved the white flag.”

“I’m burned out, I really am,” said Ratliff. “It’s time to move on. Maybe not so much burned out as frustrated. ”

A former coach and teacher, Ratliff, 65, has headed the Sports Authority for three years. The post paid $75,000 a year. As interim director, Corte will receive $1,000 a week.

Without proper facilities, recruiting events makes little sense, suggested Ratliff.

“It’s a great organization and it can be viable,” he added. “They need to find someone else to run the show and bring in events. It’s just that it doesn’t help to bring in events and have no fields to put them on.”

"Bud did an excellent job establishing the sports authority and he was able to bring a wide variety of different events, including the Olympic boxing trials last July and August," said George Bock, chairman of the nine-member MSA board of directors.

"I agree the facilities are lacking but I'd also like t add that the county and the city are working together to help with that problem," said Bock, citing soccer fields that are on the drawing boards for Texas Street and Schillingers Road.

With his experience, contacts and enthusiasm for the task, Corte will "hit the ground running," said Bock.

Ratliff said his top priority had always been “what’s best for kids.”

“If you have fields for them to play on and an organization in the community putting on different events, who knows what might happen? You might discover the next Hank Aaron or Kenny Stabler. If a kid is playing X-Box at home instead of hitting a baseball or passing a football or running track or swimming, to me we maybe have lost a life there. What might he have made of himself? What might he have done for his community?”

Ratliff said there are too few local leaders acting as advocates for youth and the community is suffering for it.

Alfa endorsements
GOP incumbent Chief Justice Chuck Malone and Republican Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh have picked up the endorsements of the Alabama Farmers Federation/ALFA.

The federation's political action committee also backs Republicans Tommy Bryan, Lyn Stuart, Glenn Murdock and Jim Main for the Supreme Court. It is supporting three Republican incumbents on the Court of Criminal Appeals - Sam Welch, Liles Burke and Michael Joiner - and the three Republican incumbents on the Court of Civil Appeals - Craig Pittman, Terri Thomas and Terry Moore.

ALFA also endorsed Republican incumbents Stephanie Bell and Gary Warren for the State Board of Education, as well as Republican newcomer Tracy Roberts of Spanish Fort.

Happy birthday, Mobile County
A Mobile County Bicentennial Celebration will commemorate the county's creation on December 18, 1812. By proclamation of the governor of what was then the Mississippi Territory, Mobile County was established 200 years ago, bringing together a rich history of many cultures that defines the present day's colorful and exciting community.

A volunteer group of civic-minded citizens formed the Mobile County Bicentennial Commission to plan the celebration. The commission will host educational and entertaining events throughout the County in 2012 with emphasis on its history, the arts, sports, and leadership as well as highlighting annual events located in Mobile County municipalities. A huge birthday extravaganza will cap the celebration at year's end.

The Mobile County Bicentennial Commission will announce details of the celebration and kick-off events during a news conference at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 in Bienville Square in downtown Mobile. The press conference will follow the Mobile Christmas & Holiday Parade.

The kick-off event will feature volunteers dressed in historic attire, a proclamation from Governor Robert Bentley and a display of pictures from various areas of the County. Each municipality will be represented during the press conference and they will be given a commemorative bicentennial flag to display during the bicentennial year. There will be giveaways and unique items for purchase.

Citizens who would like to be a part of the Bicentennial celebration, or those interested in sponsoring activities, should contact the Mobile County Bicentennial Commission at 574-9064.

Addressing those labor woes
State Department of Agriculture and Industries officials will meet with south Alabama farmers and agribusiness owners Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m. in the Jon Archer Agricultural Center, 1070 Schillinger Road in west Mobile.

Agribusiness owners and farmers along with federal and state officials will brainstorm for solutions to the labor shortages stemming from Alabama's new immigration law.

Public participants are asked to limit their remarks to 10 minutes. Time will be reserved at the end for questions and answers.

Contact Deputy Commissioner Brett Hall with questions about the meeting: phone, 334-240-7101; email, brett.hall@agi.alabama.gov.

The following is the tentative agenda:

2 p.m. - Pledge of allegiance and invocation;

2:05 p.m. - Welcome - James Harwell, Executive Director, Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association; and Debra Green, President, South Alabama Nursery Association;

2:15 p.m. - Commissioner John McMillan;

2:25 p.m. - U.S. Atty. Kenyen Brown, U.S. Southern District of Alabama;

2:35 p.m. - Director Tom Surtees, Alabama Department of Industrial Relations;

2:45 p.m. - Representative from the U.S. Department of Labor;

2:55 p.m. - Rodolfo Alvarez, CEO, GWS Guest Worker Services;

3:05 p.m. - Mac Higginbotham, Alabama Farmers Federation;

3:15 p.m. - Representative from the Alabama Department of Corrections;

3:25 p.m. - Questions & Answers;

3:45 p.m. - Closing remarks - Commissioner McMillan.

Campaign tidbits
The Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee will conduct a brief business meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15 at party headquarters, 918 Government Street, followed by a holiday social.

Party officials are:


Neighborhood revitalization revolving loan fund
The City of Mobile is seeking applicants for funding under the Neighborhood Revitalization Loan Fund. The Loan Fund will be administered by the City in partnership with selected financial institutions to provide construction loan to developers and/or potential homebuyers seeking to
acquire and renovate blighted residential properties for
homeownership-sale or occupation in Target Neighborhoods - District 2.

Completed properties will be affordable to low- moderate  individuals and households with income at or below 80 percent of Mobile's Area Median Income based on HUD Income Limits.

The 2009 Action Plan allocated $586,000 in Community Development Block Grant for revolving loan fund
from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The loan fund may not exceed $50,000 per residential unit. The City anticipates allocating funding for 12 projects. Applicants are encouraged to use
CDBG funds to leverage financing from other sources.

The City intends to attract proposals that will create impact, be cost effective, be project ready (completed within 24 months) of fund commitment, and leverage additional funding from public and private sources.

The Loan Program Policies, Procedures and Application materials are available on the City's website at www.cityofmobile.org. You can also call (251) 208-6290 or visit the City's Community Planning and Development Department at 205 Government Street, South Tower, 5th Floor, Room 508. Email Jelili@cityofmobile.org or call (251) 208-7631 with questions regarding the application.

Completed applications will be accepted until Friday Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. Applications must be submitted in accordance with the Loan Program Policies and Procedures.

For more information contact Karen Hansberry at (251) 208-6290 or at Karen.Hansberry@cityofmobile.org.

Baldwin County DA’s Office fights
parole of the “Bay Minette Rapist”
Anthony McCants will continue serving multiple life sentences

Parole was denied Tuesday for serial rapist Anthony Terrell McCants, Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon announced.

“We feel that it is important for someone from our office to make the trip to Montgomery when a serious and violent felon such as McCants comes up for parole,” Dixon said. “We want criminals like him to stay in prison where they belong, and it is important for victims to know that we will continue to fight for them even after we win a conviction.

“McCants had many victims – both young and old – who will feel safer knowing he is still behind bars,” Dixon said. “Not only did Anthony McCants forever change the lives of these victims and their families, he also terrorized a community."

During the early 1990s, McCants, now age 48, became known as “The Bay Minette Rapist” as he broke into the homes of his victims, ranging from 22 to 80 years old, and raped them. McCants was convicted of five counts of rape for which he is serving five consecutive life sentences. He also was convicted of two counts of attempted rape, for which he drew sentences of life and 75 years in prison. McCants also is serving prison sentences for unrelated sexual abuse convictions involving children he knew.

Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Rushing Payne attended the Tuesday morning hearing before the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
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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.