Wednesday, December 01, 2010

1 DEC 10: Ladies' Night

Look out, "good ol' boys" club - with the emphasis on boys. Five weeks from now, Columbus will have a female mayor and a 30-percent female Council. And it's all happened without Sarah Palin getting any closer than Montgomery.

Final unofficial returns show Teresa Tomlinson zapped Zeph Baker in the Columbus mayoral runoff, by a margin of more than two to one. Yet as late as 9:50 p.m. ET, Baker was not ready to concede defeat. Then again, he wasn't in a prayer closet asking for a miracle.

I walked into the Zeph Baker "runoff celebration" at Sugga's Restaurant on 18th Avenue around 9:30 Tuesday night - and am pleased to report there was no repeat of the Paul Olson drama four weeks ago. No one told me to leave. Dan Menefee actually invited me to have some food. And if I had a little more courage, I might have tried to interview Baker again.

Zeph Baker undoubtedly made Columbus history Tuesday night, after appearing live on WXTX "News at Ten." He joined about two dozen supporters in dancing the electric slide - and to his own campaign jingle at that. Teresa Tomlinson will have to top that by organizing an inaugural ball.

"You haven't seen the last of Zeph Baker," the losing mayoral candidate told WRBL. Voters in parts of Columbus certainly didn't Tuesday. Baker finally tried to turn the runoff into a "knock down drag-out" affair - except he merely knocked on doors, to drag people to the polls.

Zeph Baker admitted to the Ledger-Enquirer he went to "depressed areas" of Columbus, personally persuading people to ride with him to the polls and cast ballots. It's a tactic known as "knocking and dragging" - something I'd expect to see in a gin rummy game at a senior center.

Campaign aide Vincent Watkins told Tuesday night's watch party the accusations against Zeph Baker's campaign went far beyond (ahem) that other website using the word "bully." Watkins said someone spread rumors of "black nationalists.... trying to overthrow the Columbus government." Yet amazingly, Baker attended that forum at Green Island Country Club anyway.

Atlanta's Watkins Group developed the website and ad campaign for Zeph Baker. Vincent Watkins declared Baker "our knight in shining armor." Only Tuesday was dark and stormy for this knight - in more ways than one.

By comparison, Zeph Baker's backers bemoaned the "black power structure" supporting Teresa Tomlinson. Vincent Watkins named a name, declaring state Rep. Calvin Smyre "pathetic" for opposing Zeph Baker simply because Baker ran against Smyre two years ago. Maybe that's why Tomlinson is waiting until Smyre announces his retirement....

Vincent Watkins predicted many Teresa Tomlinson supporters "will become very upset and agitated" after they see her in the mayor's office for a while. For some, all it will take is one property tax bill.

So how was Teresa Tomlinson's victory party? Uhhhh, welllll - wow, didn't we get a lot of rain in Columbus Tuesday? She's going to have to get to work quickly on draining all those puddles....

To be honest, I didn't go to the Teresa Tomlinson party Tuesday night. In part, it was a matter of proving to Zeph Baker supporters I didn't support either candidate. And I was following the stated example of Mayor Jim Wetherington - until I saw on the 11:00 p.m. news he changed his mind, and visited Tomlinson's headquarters anyway.

I heard the outgoing mayor say he wasn't going to visit Teresa Tomlinson's headquarters at another campaign party earlier in the evening. In a way, you can't blame Jim Wetherington for that decision. He's going to see a lot of Tomlinson over the last five weeks, as she uses some of his Government Center offices.

As you might guess, I found Jim Wetherington at the campaign party for Judy Thomas. I went to her event on Veterans Parkway first, since she actually invited me to attend [4 Nov]. The mayoral candidates didn't do that - which reminds me I haven't hit the big time of WRBL reporters quite yet.

The former assistant to Jim Wetherington won the citywide Post 9 Council seat by about 1,100 votes over Travis Chambers. That pleased a star-studded crowd at Thomas's victory party. Columbus Councilor Glenn Davis told me he was pleased with the outcome of both citywide races. A veteran baseball player always enjoys breaking in the rookies....

Judy Thomas had support at the party from Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson. And you know a race is nonpartisan when longtime Democrat Frank Myers and Young Republicans leader Theresa Garcia are in the same office.

(The food critic in me also noted Judy Thomas's food line. By including fruit and cookies, she beat the chicken tenders and pork sliders of Zeph Baker by a narrow margin.)

The Judy Thomas campaign surprised me, by having the Ledger-Enquirer home page on a big screen to follow the results. It did NOT follow the TV stations during prime-time. It would have been too easy to compare candidates to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" on ABC.

(Which person at the party told the room WRBL "might have final totals Saturday - and they'll almost be right?")

The Post 9 outcome was in doubt when I sat down for a short interview with Judy Thomas. She didn't endorse a candidate for mayor - and she doesn't think having three female Councilors and a female mayor will make a difference in how Columbus is run. We'll see if that's true when Women's History Month comes around in March.

Back at the mayor's race, Teresa Tomlinson reportedly told supporters her backing by people of various ethnic communities shows we're in a "new Columbus." Well, maybe not. While Tomlinson carried a couple of downtown/Columbus South precincts, the Post 9 breakdown appears to be along familiar north-south lines. Our new mayor is simply more attractive than she realizes.

Teresa Tomlinson admitted on one of the late-night newscasts while one of her priorities is jobs, she can't bring new jobs to Columbus overnight. How about starting with a meeting at the Ledger-Enquirer? I discovered the other day the newspaper handles circulation calls outside the U.S. - which suddenly makes a Montgomery printing press seem ordinary.

In the forgotten local race on Tuesday's ballot, Bruce Huff ended the run of District 3 Councilor Julius Hunter. Huff told WRBL he wants to hold a district-wide "town hall meeting" to discuss priority issues - and he'd better hurry, if he wants to hold the last meeting at the old Baker High School.

Bruce Huff says he's called Columbus Council District 3 "the missing piece of the puzzle." It's so missing that Carver High School has an undefeated football team there, and it can't fill McClung Memorial Stadium for playoff games.

Did Julius Hunter give up the fight to save his Council seat in recent weeks? I'm hearing he didn't show up for several candidate forums during the runoff campaign. Changing from "Hunter" to hunted can wear someone down....

-> We've turned around a recent slump at Columbus-area poker tournaments. Read about it at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

E-MAIL UPDATE: We spotted Teresa Tomlinson putting turkey in Thanksgiving Day pans. But maybe we didn't describe the scene quite right on Friday....

Hi Richard,

Long time, no email. So you say Teresa T. wore no campaign button or shirt - I do hope she had on a bra!


Now hold on a minute! I kept my head down at the crucial moment when the Mayor-Elect loaded my pans. Well, when she offered me some meat. Well, when she.... oh, never mind....

We're waiting for answers about one other e-mail. So we'll hold that for another day, and check other Tuesday topics:

+ Columbus Council discussed possible changes to the city sign ordinance. Among other things, billboards would be banned along River Road north of J.R. Allen Parkway -- which I guess means the Big Eddy Club is closed to new members until further notice.

+ CCG-TV unveiled a new public service announcement to promote clean air awareness. It shows WTVM and WRBL meteorologists Kurt Schmitz and Bob Jeswald car-pooling. Don't laugh at this idea - because I've noticed newsmakers holding several stations' microphones during newscasts lately.

+ Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik told reporters he doesn't want his team peaking too soon, before Saturday's conference championship game. The men's basketball team must be following that same advice - because a Tuesday night win over Georgia Southwestern left them at 2-4.

+ Georgia Tech's men were nailed by Northwestern 91-71. First a loss at Kennesaw State - now a loss to Northwestern?! Coach Paul Hewitt is starting to make the Miami Heat coaching job look safe and comfortable.

+ Instant Message to Columbus Councilor Glenn Davis: Here's the amazing online discovery I mentioned to you Tuesday night - a Houston baseball fan claiming to be the "Ghost of Glenn Davis." Somehow I doubt he'll ever come to visit you at the Government Center. In fact, the guards may not let him.

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