Madison County GOP Breakfast – 1/16/2010

Congressman Parker Griffith (R) attended the Madison County Republican breakfast this morning, creating quite a buzz.  Griffith’s welcome ranged from warm hugs and handshakes to curiosity to silent disapproval.  The leadership didn’t exactly embrace Griffith – they didn’t seat him at the head table as might be expected for a sitting Congressman of your party.

I introduced myself to Griffith, telling him that I wasn’t sure if he’d show up to one of our meetings and that I respected him for attending.  Griffith said that he’d heard of Flashpoint (unsurprising since we covered the Huntsville Hospital documents pretty extensively during the last campaign).  I made Griffith the same offer that I made to the Artur Davis (D) campaign; we’ll post event notifications or issue papers sent to us from his campaign.  I hope Griffith takes us up on the offer.

The GOP breakfast was packed with more than 300 people.  You can really tell that the campaign season has started - lots of officials and candidates. In addition to Griffith, AL05 Congressional candidates Mo Brooks and Les Phillip attended (Les is probably so looking forward to reading “The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire” – he and I – and Mo – share a love of history).  Attendees included: State Representatives Phil Williams (6), Mike Ball (10) and Howard Sanderford (20); House 20 candidate David Pinkleton; Senate 9 candidates Tony Cochran, Clay Scofield, Don Spurlin, and John Wilson; State Board of Education candidate Mary Scott Hunter; Sheriff Blake Dorning; Judges Dick Richardson and Dennis O’Dell; DA Rob Broussard; Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong; HSV Councilman Mark Russell; HSV Board of Education member Jennie Robinson; Madison Councilman Tim Cowles; and Madison County Board of Education candidate David Vess.  Forgive me if I left anyone off the list.

Talk radio superstar Dale Jackson of WVNN attended the breakfast. 

John McMillan, candidate for Agriculture and Industries Commissioner, deserves a special mention.  McMillan was endorsed by 26 Republican legislators – which is unusual for a primary and speaks to the respect McMillan has gained through years of public service.

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The meeting featured speeches by the candidates for State Senate 9 (South Huntsville, Marshall County, and part of Blount County).  We are blessed to have such fine people running to replace incumbent Senator Hinton Mitchem (D).  Here are excerpts from their speeches (keep in mind it’s tough for me to eat and write at the same time):

Tony Cochran – if elected, he will be the only CPA in the legislature, which he says will benefit the budget process. “Democrats are bankrupting the State of Alabama”.  Supports Charter Schools.  Prevent AEA executives from participating in State retirement plan.  Rolling reserve budget system (Canfield).  Pro-life.  Pro-gun.  Illegal immigration – TN trains 10% of its troopers to be ICE officers.

Clay Scofield – this is “the year of the conservative”.  Pro-life. Pro-Second Amendment. Ethics – “we have to create an environment where being a legislator is unprofitable”. Tell Hubbard NO; “40% of the eductaion budget is spent in the boardroon and not in the classroom”. “Take care of home-grown businesses”.  Note that Clay is a young man, someone at my table who didn’t know him said he was “pretty impressive”.

Don Spurlin – “Small Government, low taxes, Constitution, pro-family, pro-life”.  Education – “focus on the classroon”, math and reading initiative.  “I believe in the ABC’s, not the AEA’s”.  Economy – “Provide what employer’s need: trained workforce, industry-ready worksites, infrastructure”.  Marshall County is impacted more by illegal immigration than any other County in the State.  Don noted that Governor Riley praised the Alabama DHR for a record number of adoptions in the State of the State address. Spurlin praised the Marshall County DHR who also had a record number of adoptions.

John Wilson – “Lifelong conservative Republican”. Wilson noted that Sen. Hinton Mitchem was a “no-show” at the Madison County Legislative Delegation’s forum.  PACT – the State has a “moral obligation to honor the contract”.  Support gas tax pledge. Illegal immigration – supports E-Verify and suspending business licenses of employers who don’t make a good faith effort to comply.  “John Wilson reporting for duty”.

State Senate 9 – Tony Cochran

Tony Cochran kicked off his State Senate 9 race last night, after a busy day of press events and speeches.  The kickoff party was held at the Hampton Inn in Guntersville, next to Wintzell’s Oyster House.  I attended the kickoff to meet Tony (hadn’t met him yet) and ask him about my favorite question: Free the Hops.  Cochran is supportive.  He has even toured the Lincoln Mill renovation and seen the Straight to Ale brewery (opening late Feb 2010).

Tony shared a story about how he and incumbent State Senator Hinton Mitchem and a group of Marshall County Chamber of Commerce types traveled to DC for a meeting, and how the CofC guys (apparent beer lovers) cornered Mitchem to talk about the Gourmet Beer Bill.  There’s nowhere to run when you’re in a small plane.  I think most politicians in Alabama have faced that conversation over the past few years.

A good crowd of about 80 people braved sub-freezing temperatures to support Cochran.  Cochran made his speech, saying that given the State’s financial troubles, electing a CPA to office would be a good thing.  Cochran was definitely at home with the audience, saying that they already knew everything about him and that they would hold him accountable.  IMO there’s nothing like friends and family to keep you straight.

Cochran made a direct plea to his supporters: “I need your money and I need your vote”.  Cochran said that he had already raised about $90,000 and his goal was about $175,000.  Wow.  That’s a lot of money – I can hardly wait to see the finance reports that come out soon to see how the other candidates are faring.

Cochran has a couple of not-so-secret weapons – his daughters.  The crowd included a bunch of young voters who seemed to be eager to help elect Tara and Shelby’s dad.  These two add a lot of energy to the campaign.

The State Senate District 9 Republican primary includes Tony Cochran, Clay Scofield, Don Spurlin, and John Wilson.  The winner faces incumbent Hinton Mitchem in the general election.

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John McMillan, Republican candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, dropped by Cochran’s event on his way to the Marshall County GOP meeting held next door at Wintzell’s.  I really like McMillan – he’s from Gulf Shores and we talk about that area a lot.  McMillan has some fascinating family stories about taking your own cow with you to the beach and buying blocks of ice from a boat for the sawdust-insulated cooler.

McMillan and I also share a great passion for clean water.  Plus, McMillan supports Free the Hops (even though he doesn’t drink).  Great guy.

Meet Don Spurlin Tuesday November 17

Republican candidate Don Spurlin will be at Rosies on South Parkway for a Meet and Greet, starting at 7PM  (Tuesday, November 17, 2009).   He is running for State Senate District 9 (comprised of much of South Huntsville, Marshall County, and part of Blount County).  The GOP Primary features Spurlin, John Wilson, and Tony Cochrane – all vying for the opportunity to face incumbent Hinton Mitchem (D) in the general election.

Events like this are a nice way of getting to know a candidate, and even better, to inform the candidate of your concerns.

Here’s my background post on State Senate 9.

Focus on State Senate 9

Question: What do South Huntsville, Marshall County, and some of Blount County have in common?

Answer:  An invisible State Senator, Hinton Mitchem (D – Union Grove).
Mitchem has been in the Senate since 1979, and was a State Representative before that (elected in 1975).  More from Doc’s Political Parlor “Key Senate Dem Considers Party Switch”

The eight-term Senator was elected Senate President pro tempore at the start of the quadrennium in a deal brokered to keep the minority Republicans from organizing a majority caucus with so-called dissident Democrats. Two years later in February of this year, as a part of the deal, he stepped down as Senate President pro tem in favor of Rodger Smitherman (D – Birmingham).

There are three candidates running in the GOP Primary to oppose Mitchem in the General Election: Tony Cochrane of Albertville, Don Spurlin of Albertville, and John Wilson of Huntsville.

State Senate 9 includes Huntsville roughly south of Airport Road and east of the Parkway, all of Marshall County (Guntersville, Albertville, Boaz, Arab, and Grant), plus some of Blount County.  The District has varied interests and concerns: South Huntsville is concerned with residential issues (education, safety, traffic, quality of life); Marshall County’s major employers are poultry processing plants which employ more than 6,000 people (e.g., Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson) and illegal immigration is an issue.  The nickname ‘Meth Mountain’ also describes an issue in Marshall County; while I’ve heard that the area does not manufacture as much meth anymore, it is still plagued by smuggling gangs based in Mexico.  Fun fact – Albertville is the ‘Hydrant Capital of the World’ (Mueller Company).

The District includes Guntersville Dam, Guntersville State Park, the confluence of the Tennessee River with the Flint River,  and the confluence of the Tennessee River with the Paint Rock River.  BTW the Paint Rock forms much of the border between Madison and Marshall Counties.  The Paint Rock River is a national treasure – I’m hoping that Forever Wild is able to buy some more of the land surrounding the river.  The Paint Rock was designated a navigable waterway from the junction with the Tennessee up to Larkin’s Fork by the State Legislature (Acts of 1825) - meaning that section of the river’s water is a public resource.  We get our water in Huntsville downstream from the Flint River – which makes it our local treasure.

Politically speaking, the area is ripe for a pick up by the GOP.  The Madison County Commission 5th District is represented by our friend Mo Brooks, who has broad support in South Huntsville.  Marshall County has turned into a GOP-friendly area (IIRC all of the County Commissioners are GOP).  IIRC the District is roughly 10% Blount County, 50% Marshall County, and 40% South Huntsville.