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Chip Drago
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Building Relationships
 The Political Round-Up

Winners, losers & the to be determined
 in this most strange political season

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
​On to the second installation of a post-Super Tuesday assessment of the winners and losers and all the various gradations in between as generously offered by MBT's team of political savants ...

​"Here is my morning-after rumination:

Only a fool would predict how this volcanic election year will end, but I have a gut feeling that one way or another a third-party candidate will emerge as a choice in November. This could be Donald Trump himself, if the Republicans manage to deny him the nomination, or, if Trump does win the nomination, an alternative for whom traditional Republicans and perhaps disaffected Democrats could vote – someone like (Speaker of the House) Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).

How the third-party candidate would affect the outcome would depend upon who he/she is. It could be a Ralph Nader, who clearly cost Al Gore the election in 2000, or a Ross Perot, who arguably cost George H.W. Bush re-election in 1992.

If the third-party candidate managed to accumulate a few electoral votes, this could throw the election into the House of Representative, where each state would have one vote. The Constitution gives no clear guidance on how this process is supposed to be carried out, but I believe it’s the outgoing House, not the incoming one, which decides who will be president. This would seem to favor the Republican candidate, except there may be two Republican candidates.

The issue could go to the Supreme Court, where the division is four Democratic appointees, and four Republican. How is that to be resolved? Would any resolution be accepted by the people?

And one final question: Given Trump’s flirtation with authoritarianism, is it out of the question that on Jan. 20, 2017, he might arrive at the White House escorted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff? With a military band playing Hail to the Chief?"
-- Ray Jenkins,
retired Alabama political journalist

​"Winner Defense Bar. The local trial lawyers have placed the appointment of nearly every judicial candidate for 10 years in Mobile, except for Ben Brooks. If there is an establishment in the local legal community, it was trounced on Tuesday with a victory from Jim Patterson. Judges, prosecutors, trial lawyers and others campaigned for months against Patterson who seemed to be on a mission but the tell tale sign was in the lack of support from the defense bar. There has been lots of talk over the last few months about defense lawyers getting told what to do and there was a clear determination to stand up and not participate. Firms who are known to have given large sums just didn't show up. Is that a failure of the (Allen) Ritchie campaign or a sign of (presiding Circuit Judge Charlie) Graddick losing influence? Dunno, but I think the defense firms in town took a stand and won one.

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis - Winner. Each of the last six or so big elections has had some problem or shadow cast upon it. Davis pulled off no complaints and no problems in what has been called the biggest primary turn out in Alabama. He's an easy target but he deserves good marks for making this one flawless and absent of any major complaints thus far.

Mobile County Schools - Winner. Baldwin County is losing its grip on the high ground. Another defeat on a tax issue and they are now losing money. Mobile County is running TV ads talking about how they have improved while Baldwin County is scurrying to find enough money to hold the buildings together at the seams. Who knows the reasons for the reversal of fortunes, clearly they are still lacking any real leadership but their failures, combined with some smart leadership in Mobile have made the Mobile County Public School System a winner right now.

Lagniappe - Loser. They staked a lot against Margie Wilcox as they have against Kim Hastie and David Sessions and pretty much anyone else they don't like. Against Sam Jones they were able to be the evil side of a very positive Sandy Stimpson campaign much like AEA was for Robert Bentley but in this case they have made a dramatic failure. One could argue that Wilcox just ran a better campaign but they odds were stacked against them with the Lagniappe printing at least six full page hit pieces. They did support other candidates, but nothing as clear as their opposition to Wilcox. I have found their coverage of Hastie over the last year to be distasteful to say the least. I think at this point one could reason their coverage is ineffective and is not nearly the threat it once was and I'm not sure how that bodes for our community considering the loss of the Press Register."

(Lagniappe co-publisher/managing editor Rob Holbert responds: "First and foremost Lagniappe doesn't endorse candidates, so there is no 'Lagniappe candidate.' There also were never any full-page pieces about Wilcox, much less six 'hit pieces.' In every story we did about the race, efforts were made to get Wilcox to comment, but she decided not to speak with us — as (ex-Mobile Mayor) Sam Jones also chose to do. Both lost. I'm not sure why they lost, but it doesn't make much sense for a politician not to speak with the local newspaper. If you read a hard news story and wondered why Margie's point of view wasn't expressed, talk with her or her campaign manager. They made that decision. 

I would imagine this person is mostly irritated with my columns — which are my personal opinion and marked as such. I explained exactly why I thought returning control of the Mobile Area Water, Sewer, Fire Protection Authority to Ms. Wilcox made zero sense given her parents' 30-plus years of involvement and the rampant corruption present there when we started investigating it. If your anonymous contributor likes freebie water, illegal meetings, family dinners on the water board dime and all the other things that went on, then I can understand why he/she didn't like my columns. 

As for power, reach or 'threat,' that's not our goal as a newspaper. It's to provide the news, as well as informed opinion. I don't wake up every day wondering if anyone is threatened by us. I do know we just increased our circulation by 20 percent and have more readers every week. That's all I care about. We're just going to continue trying to do a good job for the Mobile area and let the chips fall where they may.")


Winners: The Voters; Trump and Clinton.

Losers: The Republican establishment, Rubio, Sanders.

The Republican establishment badly underestimated Trump and Lindsay Graham and others now look desperate with their comments. The Republican establishment needs to wake up and realize that Trump is going to win the primary and can win the general election. They need to get Trump speaking from their platform to the extent that is possible. The Trump Train is picking up steam every week, and is collecting lots of independents, Democrats, moderates, disaffected voters, anti-establishment voters, voters who want a strong president, voters who are tired of political correctness, voters who are concerned about terrorism, immigration, etc. The Republican primary winner will be Trump, most likely sealed in the March 15th primaries. Why gut your likely nominee, when he can beat Hillary? Both will have plenty of dirt exposed by the time November comes. Trump’s curious gumbo of strong personality, 21st century celebrity and absolute evisceration of political correctness at every turn seems to be working.

(Congress—State of Alabama Only)

Incumbents won comfortably all across the board, and Byrne and Martha Roby easily withstood Tea Party challengers. The anti-establishment Trump fever does not extend to Congressional incumbents in Alabama, even though Trump won here. And Richard Shelby, who seems old enough to have served in President Eisenhower’s Senate, easily won re-election. Keep an eye on (Shelby challenger Jonathan) McConnell for the future, though. This Mobile native is an impressive young man and Shelby’s attack ads gave him valuable publicity.


Winners: The Voters, Bradley ByrneJerry CarlJim Patterson and Patterson’s PR person.

Losers: Dean Young, the Wilcox machine, Connie HudsonKim Hastie, the trial lawyers.

I talked to Bradley Byrne three weeks before the election and he privately vowed to put away Dean Young this time with a big margin of victory. And he made good on his vow. Young, a three-time loser and a very graceless loser in the last election against Byrne, needs to take his ax, go home, sharpen it up, and grind it somewhere else in some other race. He is not beating Bradley. Bradley did a good job of proving his conservatism to Republican voters and overcoming Young’s misrepresentations.

Carl withstood the combined campaigning of the Wilcox machine, fellow County Commissioner Connie Hudson and otherwise popular Kim Hastie to retain his County Commission seat. Although it is well known that she and Carl don’t get along, I thought that Connie looked very petty in openly campaigning against a fellow Commissioner. Time will tell if she will have to pay a price for that on any important issues that come before the County Commission, or in her next election.

As for myself, being a lawyer, the Patterson/Ritchie race was most fascinating. 

Ritchie is well liked in the bar, jumped in early with the support of the trial (plaintiff’s) lawyers, received a number of endorsements from civil defense lawyers and was on his way to a no opposition race for an open Circuit seat. 

Then Jim Patterson qualified on the last day, amidst concerns he was hearing about the Mobile County Circuit bench becoming too liberal. Patterson is a military veteran and was a crime victim a few years back. He parlayed those life experiences into persuasive TV and radio commercials. That’s why he won an election by eight percent despite the fact that he started late, ran against a better funded trial lawyer and his opponent was backed by large numbers of the local bar.

The trial lawyers in our area lost the biggest. In the last two open Circuit Court races, they are 0 for 2.

Political juggernaut and conservative defense lawyer/State Senator Ben Brooks easily defeated trial lawyer Eaton Barnard a few years ago in the Republican primary. Now conservative defense lawyer Patterson beat trial lawyer Ritchie in this year’s Republican primary. Should the trial lawyers just focus on seats that come open for appointment? Stay tuned in future years."
-- ACT,
former elected official

"Losers: The establishment wing of the national Republican Party. Donald Trump's campaign reminds me of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The most successful "heel" (bad guy) is the biggest star and thus is paid the most. This wrestler always has a "manager" who is either an injured or retired wrestler, who, while his boss man is yelling boastful comments about himself and derogatory comments about his opponent and everyone else, stands behind and nods his head and grins.
Trump and his manager, Chris Christie, have divided and upset the establishment.  

The establishment has three other problems: (1) everyone knows they have problems, (2) half of the people who are not part of the Republican establishment don't care that they have problems and, (3) the other half are glad they have problems.

Winner: Circuit Judge James Patterson. Patterson pulled off an upset when he beat the establishment candidate Allen Ritchie. The bench and the trial lawyers endorsed Ritchie. Patterson, who entered the race at the last minute and partly self-funded his campaign, won with 54% of the vote. Patterson clearly out-worked Ritchie, and his ads were more effective. Lately the bench in Mobile County 
has appeared to be working as a unified group. It will be interesting to see if this unanimity continues.
-- BGG,
criminal defense attorney

"Big winner is Trump of course. The myth that the 'Establishment' is trying to derail Trump needs to be exposed as false.

If WE wanted to stop anyone, we have the power to choose our delegates and Nominee in a ALGOP Convention.

But we don’t.

We give that power to the people of Alabama in the Primary, and we are not about to undermine their decision.

We remember Baxley vs. Graddick thirty years ago, and there is no way we will repeat that mistake.

The people are choosing Trump. So be it."
-- TRC,
veteran GOP leader

"Winners -- (Mobile County Commissioner) Jerry Carl wins the battle against Connie Hudson (by state Rep. Margie Wilcox who sought with Hudson's enthusiastic backing to unseat Carl). He says he can put the race aside and work together, but that would be a big departure from his first four year.

  Judge Ben Brooks prevailed with James Patterson despite that fact that the other judges were unified in their support of Allen Ritchie. Look for Brooks to make a bid to be the presiding judge and then a run for the Alabama Supreme Court. He will fail at becoming the presiding judge, but could win a Supreme Court seat.

  The losers are obviously Connie Hudson, Mobile City Councilwoman Bess RichKim Hastie and Margie Wilcox.

Political strategist Jonathan Gray comes out pretty bad, also. Jerry Carl was really easy to defeat, but Gray couldn't pull it off.
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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.