Two political newcomers have thrown their hats in the ring for seats on the Daphne City Council. Litigation attorney Stephen Olen and flight nurse Benjamin Hughes confirmed they are seeking the District 2 and District 6 seats, respectively.
Current District 2 Councilman Pat Rudicell said he was not interested in running for re-election next year. District 6 Councilman Robin Lejeune told Lagniappe he would be challenging Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood in a campaign he intends to launch sometime in the spring.
Olen, a native Mobilian and an attorney at Cunningham Bounds for the past 12 years, moved to Daphne with his wife, Sharon, about nine years ago, he told Lagniappe last week. Although he initially filed campaign documents in late August, he said he was unprepared to disclose specific goals or discuss his interest in serving on the council at this time.
“I’ve been regularly attending City Council and committee meetings for well over a year and I decided I wanted to run to make a difference,” he said, adding he’ll unveil a campaign website and schedule meet-and-greet events soon.
According to his biography at Cunningham Bounds, Olen graduated from Princeton University in 1976 and received his law degree from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in 1979. He was admitted to the state bar the same year and has practiced law continuously for 40 years, he said.
“He has been lead counsel in cases resulting in numerous multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements,” the biography notes. “Recognized for taking on high-stakes, bet-the-company litigation cases, Steve pursues restitution on behalf of his clients with a single-minded focus characterized by integrity, creativity and the highest regard for ethical conduct.”
Hughes is a lifelong resident of the Eastern Shore who graduated from Central Christian School in 2007 before attending Faulkner State Community College (now Coastal Alabama Community College).
There, he completed paramedic and nursing degrees, he said, and currently works as a flight nurse on a medical helicopter for USA SouthFlight, operated by Air Methods Corporation.
“I’ve always been interested in politics,” he said last week. “I kept up with City Council in high school and from there on … over time, I felt a calling. My wife and I prayed together and we felt like it was time.”
On initial campaign documents filed in October, Hughes lists State Rep. Matt Simpson as a committee member, along with Spanish Fort Fire Department Deputy Chief Troy Dyess, who is also a deputy coroner for Baldwin County.
Hughes also said his campaign was in its “infant stages” and he’d be prepared to discuss more specifics in the near future.
At the beginning of November, Olen listed a campaign finance balance of just under $12,000. Hughes has yet to file a monthly report.
Lejeune said he’s spoken with both candidates and “they are both active in coming to the meetings and familiar with what’s going on in Daphne government, and both would make great councilmen.”
Municipal elections are held on the fourth Tuesday in August 2020. Runoff elections, if needed, are held on the sixth Tuesday after the general election. The qualifying period for all candidates will officially open on the first Tuesday in July 2020 and run for a period of 15 days.
This article was updated to add the name of Hughes’ employer.
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