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Chip Drago
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Political 'Up and Comers'

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Who are the political "up and comers" in these parts?

The Mobile Bay Times put the question to its legion of political savants. The query contained no restrictions such as age (below 40 or 50) and experience (never before held public office or ran for office). Some of the respondents asked for anonymity. Others didn't. In the interests of consistency, no one is identified outright, but some who didn't object to attribution should be easy enough to figure out.  

"I think the biggest up-and-comer is Republican operative Cory Adair, who was hired away from Alabama by the Mississippi Republican Party a couple of years ago, but I think will be back in the state running big things in 2010."
-- ABJ,
lobbyist

"D's --

R's --
-- PBW,
labor, Mobile

"Defining 'young' as well as 'up and comer' is now a relative term, isn't it?

On D side: Stephen Black (director of the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility at the University of Alabama), Artur Davis (duh), Jeff McLaughlin (House member from Guntersville), (Mobile City Councilman) William Carroll.

On R side: Paul Demarco (House member from Homewood), state Sen. Arthur Orr (of Decatur), Baldwin County state Sen. Trip Pittman, (Gov. Bob Riley's son and attorney) Rob Riley (maybe not 2010 but he will emerge down the road).
-- ATD,
attorney, Mobile

"Rep. Marc Keahey of Grove Hill, 28-years-old and announcing run for (the late) Pat Lindsey's senate seat."
-- PST,
executive, Gulf Shores

"Jon Hand, who works for Jo Bonner, is one of the most talented and hard working young people I have worked with.

Alex Pappas, a senior at Sewanee from Mobile, and a volunteer worker on numerous political campaigns is as knowledgeable about politics and government as I have seen in a young person.

Britton Bonner, a young attorney in Baldwin County, has a very bright future in politics, if he wants one. There are more, but these three come immediately to mind."
-- AFG,
former elected official, Baldwin County

"(State Sen.) Ben Brooks and (state Rep.) Randy Davis for Congress if (congressman) Jo (Bonner) goes for governor.
I think Bradley (Byrne) is going to run for governor in 2010. Scott Beason for Lt. Governor. Del Marsh for U.S. Senate when (U.S. Sen. Richard) Shelby retires or expires.

Down the road Ben Brooks, Arthur Orr, Scott Beason (all state senators) for Governor."
-- TRU,
businessman, Baldwin County

"I think Chad Fincher, already in the Legislature, will go far. Also, Mark Erwin performed very well as Chairman of the Republican Executive Committee for the past two years and has acquainted himself with influential people throughout the State. While Don Davis is happy and enjoys being Probate Judge, if he chose to, he could move up to just about any position.

Also, while I do not agree with his politics and his very liberal opinions, (former assistant district attorney now in private practice) Karlos Finley has made it very clear that he has his sights set on political office. I don't know that he cares what office. And even though you haven't asked, I think Vicki Davis will make a very good U.S. Attorney for the Southern District. As for more state wide positions, I'm just not as familiar with 'up and comers'  outside Mobile County."
-- OTJ,
attorney, Republican, Mobile

"Stephen Black and (recent unsuccessful, but strongly competetive Democratic congressional nominee) Joshua Segall."
-- SCF,
attorney, Democrat, Montgomery

"One of the young up and comers in Baldwin County is Haymes Snedeker. He was recently reappointed as Municipal Judge in the city of Fairhope. This position is well known as a stepping-stone position to the county District and Circuit bench as evidenced by previous Fairhope Municipal Judges and current Baldwin County Judges Jody Bishop, Lang Floyd and Jim Reid. He is well positioned to secure a position on the county bench when an opening occurs in the near future."
-- ASJ,
attorney, Baldwin County

"(State Sen.) Myron Penn who is very smart and a hard worker. He knows and understands Senate rules.

Del Marsh who is quiet but very effective in the Senate.

Bobby Bright (newly-elected congressman from Montgomery) who if he survives the next election will be a statewide candidate.

Toby Brown, lawyer, from Mobile."
-- JLB,
attorney, Montgomery

"I think that Rep. Marc Keahey is one of the real bright stars rising in South Alabama. I hope that the Senate race is not too soon for him. He is bright and energetic."
-- CTG,
executive, Mobile

"In Fairhope, I don't know of any young 'up and comers' politically who are worth mentioning. And that's a shame.

In Baldwin County, I still think (state Sen.) Trip Pittman could go further if he wants to pursue higher office.

In Mobile County, (state Sen.) Ben Brooks and (City Councilman) William Carroll come to mind.

In Alabama, I believe (two-year college Chancellor) Bradley Byrne (who I still consider young) and (Greenville businessman/GOP gubernatorial candidate) Tim James both could be in that category."
-- LBT,
businessman, Eastern Shore

"On the north end, rookie Saraland City Councilman Joe McDonald is serving his first of four years in local public office. Joe is young, intelligent, strong Christian-family values sort-of-guy. He could play a major role in reforming the well-established political alliances in that city.

Butch McDonald is another name to watch in the 'Gateway to Progress.' Butch is active in the local community and may be a candidate in the next local election.

Dr. Howard Rubenstein has started his second full-term as City Council-President. The possibility of him making a run for Mayor next go-around appears very likely, especially since long-time former Council member, active civic leader and successful businessman Ron Mitchell lost yet again in his bid for Mayor of Saraland to incumbent Ken Williams who will no doubt retire after this term.

At the county level, David Chad Tucker, currently the administrative assistant to Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran and no stranger to the media has helped run three campaigns in recent years, and rumored to be preparing to run another district-wide effort. Insiders say he has contemplated switching from 'running campaigns' to 'running for office.' Mobile City Council? County Commissioner?

Judy McCain Belk, a conservative Democrat who seems more suited on the Republican ticket is a young-at-heart, savvy politician whose name should be popping up for something soon down the road."
-- LOS,
politico, north Mobile

"Napolean Bracy, Council President/Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Prichard; Rev. Levon Manzie, Mobile County School System District 4; Dr. Reginald Crenshaw, Sr., Mobile County School System District 3; (Mobile Municipal) Judge Shelbonnie Hall; Attorney Raymond Bell."
-- HAF,
educator, Mobile

"Dr. Alice Kracke, English Professor at USA. She was very effective in the Obama Campaign until she had to drop out to complete work on her doctorate.

Amy Beckerle Andrews, who declares she is out of politics, but I don't believe it."
-- FBB,
attorney, Democrat, Mobile

"Karlos Finley is definitely a rising star in our community. The work he started while in the District Attorney's Office and continues still with our young people keeps him constantly involved in the community. He is always trying to make a difference in the lives of the people in his surroundings. He will be a great  policy maker or enforcer (of policy). He comes from a family of people who believed in always making a difference and he is living up to that long legacy. James Finley was his father and civil rights leader in Mobile."
-- TWY,
counselor, Mobile

"Our region is in need of new political leaders. I live in Midtown and without a doubt I believe that Levon Manzie, the young man who beat former school Board president Fleet Belle for our school board seat is a bright and exciting new political leader. He's hard working, personable and extremely persuasive (I'm a die hard Republican and he got me interested in his race). I admired the way he conducted himself throughout the campaign and the fact that he received 66% of the vote is astounding. I have also been impressed with the positions he has taken since becoming a board member. I believe he is only 25 or 26 but with more experience and continued hard work, the sky is the limit for this young man."
-- PRC,
midtowner, Mobile

"(U.S.) Senator Jeff Sessions: He may be the last conservative voice in the Senate; his value and influence grow.

(State) Senator Ben Brooks: Already established, but energetic and on the move.

(City Council, District 3) Candidate Ron Wallace: A fresh face, with fresh ideas, and a fresh approach."
-- RPR
political spectator, Mobile

"He doesn't have a high profile locally just yet, but Vance McCrary has great promise as a political leader of the present and future. Very smart. Good people skills. He is an attorney and he is president of the Mobile Area Democratic Association.

I would also mention Brad Warren. He is the head of the Democratic Party locally. He is bright and sincere. With more like him, the Democratic Party will be in good hands.

Also, I'd add Kim Pettway, who chaired Generation Obama Mobile. Very enthusiastic and energetic. Her future is bright, whether in politics or whatever else she chooses.

Of course, Merceria Ludgood on the county commission. And Barbara Drummond in the mayor's office, but I'm sure they've both already been mentioned.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Adam Bourne try for Secretary of State soon. That office would position the young attorney well for a successful political future.

While it may seem laughable to describe John Tyson Jr. as an 'up and comer,' he established himself as a legitimate statewide candidate in 2006. With a favorable wind, he is likely to win statewide office one day.

Also, keep an eye on Michel Nicrosi, formerly with the U.S. Attorney's Office here. She may well become Obama's appointee as U.S. Attorney in Montgomery where she could make some noise. Ultimately, it seems quite possible that she could wind up on the federal bench."
-- DSMc
political observer, Mobile

"Mary Scott Hunter who is running for the State Senate 7 seat in Huntsville. She's a UA Law School grad, former
Air Force JAG/current AL Air National Guard Major, now practicing law ..."

On the local scene Steve Nodine, Gina Gregory, Connie Hudson and Michael Pierce are to be watched. Steve is a results getter and effective media communicator. He would be a strong candidate for Congress if Jo Bonner
runs for governor. Gina and Connie are problem solvers and consensus builders, along with being attractive and gracious, who could be potential Mayoral candidates if Sam Jones were to take a job in the Obama or possible future Governor Artur Davis administrations.

Michael Pierce, executive director of the Martin Luther King Development organization and Chairman of Commonwealth Bank, would be an attractive
minority candidate for the Legislature, City Council, or even Mayor if Sam departs for Washington or Montgomery.

In the legislature Ben Brooks, Rusty Glover, Trip Pittman and Randy Davis are some young comers. If the 2010 Alabama Senate is no longer dominated by the AEA-Education Union/Jr. College Double Dippers then
Ben, Rusty and Trip could become effective floor leaders as many of the ol' gang voluntarily/involuntarily depart. In the House, Randy Davis could move up the ladder if the Repub's increase seats. 

On the state scene, the very talented and smart Stephen Black, Yale Law School grad and grandson of Alabama Senator/Supreme Court Judge Hugo Black, should be elected to some office statewide. We need that type
person in state government in any capacity regardless of  political party.

John Tyson might have a shot at Attorney General if Troy King runs for another job.

Re the Governor's race, Bradley Byrne is smart and politically tough enough to be a good governor and would keep going the 'high expectations and results' that Bob Riley has set and accomplished as governor. He could be our South Alabama region's 'breakthrough' governor.

Our upstate Congressman Artur Davis could be a strong candidate for governor if the Obama administration has success with the economy and foreign affairs, giving a boost to his campaign to be our State's first black governor.

Nationally third termer but always low key Senator Jeff Sessions will be a much more heard voice representing new 'post Bush era' Republicans. I believe the national media considers most of the older serving Senate
Repubs such as (John) McCain, (Kit) Bond and (Arlen) Spector (Shelby stays relevant due to bailout opposition) are 'over the hill' with their readers/viewers/listeners. Jeff's honest but 'straight talk' approach on issues such as the bailout will draw more national media attention as they search for fresh Repub faces to differ with the popular and hopefully effective #1 'up and comer' on the scene, President Barack Obama."
-- JSH,
financial consultant, Mobile

"On the Repub side, Jo Bonner and Scott Beason.

On the Dem side, Artur Davis and Sue Bell Cobb."
-- SSR,
lobbyist/consultant, Birmingham

"Clay Barclay -- former Chair of State Young Republicans; currently Co-Chair of National YR's;

Jordan van Meter -- law student at Liberty College; active in local YR's. Sharp and very outgoing."
-- LDJ,
businessman, south Mobile

"Stephen Nodine is growing. His demeanor is much more calm and thoughtful. He is not going to run for Mayor, I believe his ambitions are higher than that. He is definitely one to watch.

Mike Dean is another. The recent battle he went through has certainly toughened his skin and has prepared him for a strong leadership position.

One could argue that Connie Hudson peaked a couple of years ago, but I see her running a marathon not a sprint. In the future I believe she could serve our city well as our first (female) elected Mayor, but not in this cycle. Sam Jones has proven many wrong and has proven to be a more conservative leader than many thought but there is not another Sam Jones waiting the wings behind him and make no mistake, Fred Richardson is NOT Sam Jones.

Mark Erwin showed power and skill in his navigation and leadership of the local Republican Party, which internally can often be at odds. Mark is the top of the pack in what I see as the up and coming generation of Republican leaders -- those who stand for principle but who do so with unity not division.

You cannot look past Spencer Collier. A lot of bad wake behind his boat, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and he is much more aware of how much attention his actions can garner and I believe he has moved up from these unpleasant experiences and will very likely have a more prominent role in higher office of the future.

John Tyson's decisions might well change the course of Mobile's politics in the near future. With only two years to go before he reaches supernumerary (which entitles him to a comfortable sum and retirement benefits), he must decide if he is going to risk it for one more shot at Troy King or stay local and collect the retirement benefits he has earned. This decision alone could set off a major changing of the guard, should be choose to run for AG. The Republicans could likely hold all county wide offices; the real shake up will come in the decision of who wades in for that fight. My money is on Mark Erwin as I see him leading any such charge head and shoulders about others because of his proven record or reaching out to others with respect while maintaining a solid conservative philosophy.

Finally, I think there are two honorable mentions -- Rusty Glover and Trip Pittman. The role of the State Senate is about to change dramatically with the shakeup in the party counts for the legislature. I believe these two men will show up as leaders in a new legislature and south Alabama will be very proud of the benefits their leadership will bring back home."
-- BBN,
politico, Mobile
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