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Chip Drago
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The Political Round-Up

District 4 special election coming into focus; Strange recharging, not taking charge; a Judy for a Jewel; Steele over & out; varrrrooooomm, varrrrooooomm, fore;
the perfect stocking stuffer    

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
The extraordinary, if not embarrassing, spectacle of an election without candidates will almost certainly be avoided when the city stages a special election Jan. 23 to fill the unexpired term of outgoing District 4 Mobile City Councilman Ben Brooks.

Still, with less than a week to go before the qualifying deadline passes,  no candidate has officially entered the field.

Brooks allies Marilyn Culpepper of the Mobile Historic Preservation Society and insurance executive Jim Bell have opted against a bid for the office. Patricia Mark, an assistant professor in the University of South Alabama communications department, gave some thought to running but also decided against it. 

City Council attorney Jim Rossler said he would research the matter of how the position would be filled if not by election when and if it became an issue. Rossler, however, said he felt certain someone would qualify for the race before the deadline. Statements of candidacy must be filed with Mobile City Clerk Glenda Morgan no later than 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11.

Former City Councilman Mabin Hicks is considered a likely entry. Hicks, a south Mobile printer, lost the seat to Brooks in the 2001 municipal elections. He later became a supporter of Brooks.

Well-known Mobile real estate executive Gavin Bender acknowledged an interest in the post.

“I am mulling it over,” Bender said. “I hope to decide (soon).”

Kim Barton, the wife of state Rep. Jim Barton, is also contemplating a run for the seat.

Retired military officer Pete Riehm said, “I am very seriously considering a run.”

In his final posting from 2002-2005, Riehm served as commanding officer of the Navy & Marine Corps Reserve Center in Mobile.

If necessary, a run-off election would be held either Tuesday, Feb. 13 or Tuesday, March 6, depending upon Department of Justice approval under the Voting Rights Act.

The voting centers to be used for this special election are:

Any qualified elector who has resided within City Council District 4 for at least 90 days on Election Day, and has been a resident of the City of Mobile for one year, may qualify to run for this office by filing the appropriate forms and paying any appropriate fees.

Strange recharging, not taking charge
Rumors spread recently that unsuccessful GOP lieutenant governor nominee Luther Strange was emerging as a compromise solution to the building battle between state Rep. Mike Hubbard and state Sen. Scott Beason to succeed outgoing state Republican Party chair Twinkle Andress.

But Strange, a Birmingham lawyer/lobbyist, shot down those rumors.

"I am not a candidate for the chairmanship," he said. "After the long campaign I will be recharging my batteries. I will stay very active (in state politics with the GOP), however, and am excited about what the future might hold."

A Judy for a Jewel
Judy Busby, formerly state Sen. Gary Tanner's secretary, has taken over from the retiring Jewel Mashburn as secretary for Mobile Mayor Sam Jones

In other city personnel developments, longtime city comptroller Linda Steele retired Nov. 30 after more than 25 years with the city. 

Steele will join Forensic Financial Services Group, LLC, a CPA firm focusing solely on forensic accounting work, including financial fraud prevention and detection. FFSG is reportedly the only firm in Mobile or Baldwin Counties specializing in that area.

Back in the early and mid-1980's, Steele discovered the financial irregularities at the Mobile Civic Center. The federal investigation led to a two-year public corruption case in which Steele testified. Then Mobile City Commissioner Gary A. Greenough and auditorium managers George Juzang and David Gwin were convicted in the case.

The Jones' administration has engaged local attorney Donald J. Stewart to assist Mobile in preparing its annexation plans for unincorporated areas outside the city limits, particularly west Mobile. Stewart was involved with the City of Gulf Shores in some of its annexation efforts, including Fort Morgan Road. Jones said he hopes to unveil the city's proposal next month.

In an ironic twist at the legislative orientation session in Tuscaloosa, longtime legislative strongman state Sen. Lowell Barron and the "Senate Leadership Group" that may play a leading role in reducing Barron's influence are neighbors. Barron has hospitality suite #314 in the Sheraton and the independently caucusing Senate Six is nearby in Suite 373.

Vvvvaarrrroooooom, vvvvaarrroooooom, fore
An 18-hole golf course, to be shared with the University of Mobile Rams' golf team, may be part of a proposed $624 million motorsports park here if the Prichard/Saraland site is chosen for the development, according to Mike Dow.

Dow mentioned the golf course possibility while speaking to the Sunrise Rotary Club of Mobile recently. Dow noted that the university has a strong golf team but no home course. The golf course would also support hotels included in the project. The former mayor is a spokesman for the proposed Alabama Motorsports Park.

The developers hope to select a Mobile or Baldwin County site for the 2,000-plus acre project by the end of the year. The investment group includes race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The schedule calls for completion and opening in the Fall 2009, with a full schedule of activities in 2010.

A perfect stocking stuffer
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