Sunday, October 31, 2010

31 OCT 10: A Fine Finish

It's the final weekend before Election Day, and all candidates are trying to be on their best behavior. In fact, this could be a big day for taxi drivers -- so candidates can avoid disqualifying themselves with embarrassing car wrecks or double-parking.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Columbus mayoral candidate Zeph Baker confirms his campaign had to pay a fine, for not filing a disclosure report on time. Candidates have to file reports at the Election Board office every 90 days - which makes that board tougher than Columbus Council, which only expects a budget proposal once a year.

Zeph Baker told your blog he doesn't know how big the fine was, for missing the deadline for a third-quarter financial disclosure. The city election website doesn't have any of the, uh, "fine details" concerning violations. But I'd guess the price is about the same as driving too slowly on the highway.

Zeph Baker assured me his third-quarter financial disclosure report is now submitted. Trouble is, the election board still hasn't posted it. How are we supposed to know if other Columbus ministers have rallied around his bid for mayor? Am I supposed to park my car outside ten different churches today, to find out for sure?

I actually called Zeph Baker Friday to get his side of another election story. Someone finally sent me one of those "inside" mayoral campaign e-mails that's caused a fuss elsewhere on the web. Did a Baker adviser issue a "do not trust" list of African-American residents who support Teresa Tomlinson? And beyond that, would it be any different than a Republican list of Democratic Party donors?

Zeph Baker says the "do not trust" e-mail did NOT come from his campaign, and was NOT "disseminated to the public." I think that means the "Street Committee" at The Courier didn't get the e-mail in time for its last edition....

Some people are trying to turn the "do not trust" list against Teresa Tomlinson. The e-mail forwarded to me claims Tomlinson campaign manager Tollie Strode never contacted Zeph Baker's campaign about the list, despite Strode's statement otherwise. Then the message uses words such as "Ku Klux Klan" and "demasculation" - so it's no surprise it's from someone with "howling" in her name.

Teresa Tomlinson personally returned our voice mail about this Friday evening, and insisted Tollie Strode did contact Zeph Baker's campaign about the list. She noted it came from Vincent Watkins -- an adviser to Baker's bid who built his campaign website, and also is helping a candidate for judge in Atlanta. The more places to get help with traffic tickets, the better....

But Teresa Tomlinson admitted she didn't want to answer detailed questions about the "do not trust" list. "Call me a nerd," she said -- but she'd rather focus on "more substantive" issues. Take the 35 percent of Columbus's land mass which Tomlinson calls "unused or underutilized." I assured her I was in no position to buy any of it right now.

In fact, Zeph Baker also is more interested in other things besides lists of names. Baker told me he's moving past that, to focus on campaigning in all parts of Columbus. Baker explained when you're in a race, you "never look back." He needs to tell that to some of the Southeastern Conference football players who trash-talk, when they're about to score touchdowns.

Zeph Baker is optimistic about Tuesday's outcome, based on what he called "extremely high numbers" from campaign phone calls. His staff apparently is getting more positive responses than negative ones. I didn't ask Baker if the staff is keeping a separate "do not trust" list, of callers responding with racial slurs.

Teresa Tomlinson says his campaign also has done some telephone polling. But she admitted to me such polls "only show what the people you called think." Tomlinson stopped short of claiming the backers of her opponents are not thinking.

The biggest "October surprise" in this final campaign weekend may involve the Georgia Lieutenant Governor. An ethics complaint filed in Atlanta claims Casey Cagle had an affair with a campaign worker, and paid her $200,000 in campaign money. Cagle and his alleged adulteress call the claim false. But if anyone spots Gloria Allred at the Atlanta airport, please contact us....

We'll have more campaign fun and games Monday, then take our traditional "day of silence" for Election Day. Let's see if anything else is making news in the meantime:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported a squirrel knocked out electric service for 5,000 customers in Phenix City. It saddens me that they've joined with the wrong crowd - stealing copper instead of nuts.

+ Auburn's football team stayed unbeaten by mauling Mississippi 51-31. Perhaps "Ole Miss" needs to adjust that mascot again - to Black and Blue Bears.

+ Florida edged Georgia 34-31 in overtime, in their annual Jacksonville showdown. I'm surprised no company has stepped in to change the nickname of this rivalry. You know, something like "The World's Largest Outdoor Snapple Party."

+ Instant Message to everyone I heard yelling "woo-hoo" from downtown Columbus Saturday night, as I jogged on the Phenix City Riverwalk: You were so loud that I'm assuming you had to be hollering about college football, instead of Halloween.

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