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Chip Drago
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The Political Round-Up

Sparks won't take the 5th;
Local GOP's got your Johnson right here;
Collier moves to the Wright?;
Huckabee a busy bee;
Sheriff won't nail Hammer 

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Odds are strong that Ron Sparks will announce today that he will remain a Democratic candidate for governor in elections next year rather than attempt to fill the Democratic void in Alabama's 5th Congressional District created by U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith's GOP jump.

Sparks fueled talk that Griffith's
switch might prompt him to
run for Congress despite his
residence just outside of the
north Alabama congressional
district. A House member is not
required to reside in the
district that he represents.

Political pundits see U.S. Rep.
Artur Davis as a favorite over Sparks for the state's Democratic nomination for governor in 2010. A better read will come in a month when campaign financial disclosures become public.

Presently serving as Alabama's commissioner for Agriculture and Industries, Sparks will hold press conferences today in Huntsville at 10 a.m., Birmingham at 1:30 p.m. and Montgomery at 4 p.m.

Speculation over Sparks' political plans gives him the opportunity for some possible free television exposure in various markets.

If Sparks intended to drop out of the governor's race to run for Congress, he would not likely schedule any appearances outside the district.

Bill Johnson to address local GOP
Republican candidate for governor Bill Johnson will address the Mobile County Republican
Executive Committee at 7 p.m. Monday,
Jan. 4 at Christ United Methodist Church,
6010 Grelot Road. MCREC ordinarily meets
at Westminster Presbyterian Church at
Sage Avenue and Airport Blvd., but the
committee plans in 2010 to rotate its
meeting place around the county.
Applications will be available for
membership in the MCREC and the Mobile GOP for 2010.

GOP's Collier shifting to the Wright? 
State Rep. Spencer Collier is the front runner to fill a contract position to coordinate economic development for Bayou La Batre, informed sources have
told Mobile Bay Times. The Bayou La
Batre City Council about two weeks ago
authorized Mayor Stan Wright to make
the hire. Under terms of the agreement,
the contractor would receive $52,000 a
year. Wright and Collier are cousins.

Collier said he preferred not to
comment on the report for the
time being. A former state trooper,
Collier is presently employed as a legal investigator for the Mobile law firm of Cunningham Bounds. Collier has remarked in recent months over the demands on his time of both public office and the job with the law firm.

Collier is nearing the end of his second term as the Republican House member representing District 105. Collier, 36, and his wife, Melissa, reside in Bayou La Batre. They are the parents of three boys and a girl.

Collier is a graduate of Troy University where he studied criminal justice and political science.  

Huckabee to Keynote Ecumenical Arts Event here
GOP 2012 presidential prospect Mike Huckabee will keynote an ecumenical arts event called vivace (vee-vatch-ay) at Cottage Hill Baptist Church here Jan. 26 from 6-9 p.m.

Vivace features live music, art exhibits, a mainstage show and keynote address by Huckabee, the former governor Arkansas who ran a strong though unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

Artists, performers and musicians from the University of Mobile, McGill-Toolen High School, Murphy High School, Saint Paul's Episcopal High School, Cottage Hill Christian Academy and others will participate. The event draws support from churches and institutions including the Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile, First Baptist North Mobile, Cottage Hill Baptist Church and Dauphin Way United Methodist Church.

Vivace is produced by the United for Life Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by Lee John Bruno to promote "culture-building work." The event is divided into two parts: an open house of music and art by schools and professionals from 6-7:30 p.m., followed by a mainstage show featuring Huckabee's talk at 7:30 p.m.

This mainstage show will also include jazz-flamenco fusion guitarists Roman Street, the nationally-acclaimed University of Mobile's Voices of Mobile, the acapella group Elements of Difference, and pop-Broadway performance group Sounds of Mobile.

Ticket prices are $15 general admission/$20 at door; $35 priority seating/$50 at door. Visit www.joinrock.com for more information, to purchase tickets and for ticket locations or call (251) 545–4501.

Sheriff won't nail Hammer
Credit Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran with a smart decision, political and otherwise, in relinquishing jurisdiction over the investigation of a complaint involving Mobile County Commissioner Steve Nodine after a "leafy, green, plant-like material" was discovered in the official's county-issued truck last week when it was in the county garage for servicing. Surveillance cameras are positioned throughout the garage, according to county and law enforcement sources.

Cochran may be among the less
vulnerable of any local officials
up for re-election next year,
but the Nodine case has the
earmarks of a controversy
that could factor in a
challenger's campaign.

Both men hold office as Republicans. Perhaps, however, a more compelling reason for discretion in the probe is the role of the county commission in approving the budget for the sheriff's department. The sheriff's office has turned the case over to the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

Earlier this fall, Nodine reportedly rankled some county employees with talk of storm-related and holiday work schedules, as well as adjusted per diems and possible layoffs stemming from impending revenue shortfalls.

Criminal defense attorney Dom Soto is representing Nodine. Soto points out that any high profile politician and certainly one as partisan as Nodine will have "his fair share of enemies," as well as friends.

The rumor mill has been in overdrive since the incident, Soto acknowledged, noting that his favorite one has it that Boeing skulduggery was behind the planting of the pot to discredit Northrop Grumman/EADS' most fearsome advocate in the $40 billion battle between the manufacturing behemoths for the contract to build new refueling tankers for the U.S. military either in Washington state or at Brookley Field here in Mobile.

"It sounds like a set up or prank ..." said Soto. "The vehicle had been loaded that weekend for some sort of Christmas parade."

The results from testing of the substance have not yet been made public. The material was contained in a small prescription bottle reportedly belonging to the commissioner.
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