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Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times

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The Political Round-Up

Baldwin boots Riley; a MAC PAC attack;
Baykeeper birthday bash; Money to battle meth;
Listen up; Tillman, PI; A wider Schillinger

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Gov. Bob Riley has plenty of cowboy boots, but he's got no coattails and the wallet where he keeps his political capital is a little lighter than it was earlier this week after Trip Pittman defeated Riley-backed Randy McKinney in the state Senate District 32 GOP runoff election in Baldwin County.

McKinney started out as the frontrunner and embraced his ties to Riley from the opening of the campaign. Then, in the closing days of the runoff, not so much front running anymore, the McKinney campaign aired a television spot featuring Riley's enthusiastic endorsement. In for a penny, in for a pound. And, as events played out, in for a pounding.

Pittman romped almost 57-43. So much for the influence of the popular two-term Republican governor of a state whose reddest county is, arguably, Baldwin. Lots of cows, corn, 'taters and 'maters in Baldwin County, not so many as in years past, but still very few sheep.

Somewhat similarly, in the 2006 elections, Riley's popularity at the top of the GOP ticket wasn't enough to propel to victory either GOP lieutenant governor nominee Luther Strange or Drayton Nabers, the Republican entry for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Let the jokes begin.

Veteran Democratic lawyer: "Do you think that (Democratic nominee) AJ (Cooper) will get 25 percent?

Response: "Thirty percent if Riley publicly endorses Pittman."

The Eastern Shore attorney and former mayor of Prichard across the bay will face the GOP businessman in the general election Oct. 16.  

Baldwin County's rejection of Riley's advice may sting briefly, soon to be forgotten in the bustle of state business.

One Baldwin County GOP official noted: "It appears that the endorsement helped Pittman from all accounts. I spoke to Trip about this issue and assured him that Gov. Riley would be a Pittman man after the race. Trip responded that he knew that it was only politics and wouldn't let that get in his way.

On Tuesday night after the results were in, the governor immediately called Trip and congratulated him on his victory.

Trust me, I know that there have to be some strange feelings about this type of issue. However, after a couple of fights where you are on the governor's side or he comes to your aid, it all goes out the window.  Bob Riley is loyal to those who support him. Make no bones about that."

And in a couple of years, the governor is off to Clay County for the political afterlife of Riley, tending to chickens and the grandkids on weekends.

Getting the annexation word out
In past annexation efforts, folks just weren't buying what the city was selling. This time around the city decided to treat it more like a political campaign, with a political action committee, private fundraising, scientific polling, door-to-door campaigning and a variety of measures to inform and educate the area's prospective new citizens.

To that end, the Mobile Area Citizens Political Action Committee or MAC PAC was created.

According to records filed with the secretary of state's office, MAC PAC had exceeded its goal of $75,000, showing contributions of $81,575 in its 5-to-10 day pre-election financial disclosure.

Expenditures were $10,940.67 and MAC PAC had a balance of $70,650.71 as the Sept. 18 vote drew near.

MAC PAC contributors included:

Speaking to a MAC PAC fundraising reception last week at the home of Matt and Phyllis Metcalfe, Mayor Sam Jones told the gathering that the response to pro-annexation appeals among residents in the four areas has been especially interesting in that areas which some have projected as anti-city have in fact been the most enthusiastic in support of the city's proposition.
Among others in attendance at the reception were Pat and Bob Edington, Sonny Callahan, Norman Hill, Richard Davis, Barbara Drummond, Al Stokes, Larry Wettermark, John Peebles, E.B. Peebles, Jay Watkins, Brian Metcalfe, Adam Metcalfe, Tammy and Riley Boykin Smith, Reggie Copeland, David Cooper, Bobby Guthans, Bay Haas, Jim and Karen Atchison, Dennis and Connie Hudson, Scott Hunter, Jimmy Lyons, Sherry Hall, Betty Yeager and Sage and Preston Bolt.

A baykeeper birthday bash
Mobile Baykeeper will celebrate its 10th Anniversary Thursday, Oct. 4 from 6-8 p.m. at the Five Rivers Delta Resource Center on the Causeway, according to Baykeeper board member Page Stalcup.

The president of Waterkeeper Alliance, Steve Fleischli, will address the gathering.

Kenji Bunch, composer-in-residence with the Mobile Symphony and local bluegrass band Delta Reign, will provide live entertainment.

A seafood feast will be provided by restaurants on the Causeway. Beer and wine will be served and there will be a silent auction as well. Tickets are $50 each or a table of eight for $400. For more information, contact Stalcup at 476-5500 or by email.

"Mobile Baywatch/Baykeeper has done a lot to try to keep our area waters healthy and prevent future damage to the fragile water systems in our home area," said Stalcup. "This will benefit not only our generation but will provide for a safer and hopefully healthier environment for generations to come."

$450,000 to battle meth in Mobile
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, Thursday announced that the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) will award $450,000 to the Mobile County Commission. Awarded through the COPS Methamphetamine Training and Technical Assistance program, the grant  funds projects that seek to increase community awareness of meth use and abuse.

“Unfortunately, methamphetamine usage is on the rise nationwide,” said Shelby. “This drug knows no boundaries of age, gender, class or race and has wreaked havoc on our nation. It is important that we continue to dedicate necessary resources to eliminate this dangerous drug.”

The Methamphetamine Training and Technical Assistance program is one of several COPS initiatives aimed at fighting methamphetamine. Grants were awarded to those projects most capable of having a national impact. These projects will not only be of benefit to the law enforcement agencies awarded funds under the Methamphetamine Initiatives, but also to the thousands of other agencies and communities across the nation working to combat the use and abuse of meth.

"We worked with the U.S. Attorney's Office in seeking this grant and applied with the Justice’s office of COPS," Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said. "As I understand it, we receive the money to utilize over a two-year period."

According to Cochran, the program will have three primary parts --

Listen Up
According to County Engineer Joe Ruffer, the county is investigating a circuit judge's report that jurors inside the jury room can overhear discussions in a normal tone of voice among attorneys and judges in the courtroom. Ruffer said the walls are insulated, but nevertheless the sound carries. Workers are measuring sound levels and developing various approaches to solve the problem, he said.

Tillman, PI
Former Sheriff Jack Tillman plans to team with bail bondsman Terry McLeod to form a private investigations firm.

Tillman said he has his city license and plans to get his county license next week. The tentative name of the company is Investigative Services. Tillman said he would handle insurance fraud, jury selection, domestic and juvenile work.

"I've done this sort of thing for 28 years with the school system," said Tillman who was a school system investigator before winning the sheriff's office in 1994.

McLeod owns One Hour Bonding.

Schillinger Road widening project is in the planning stages.

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