The week before the March 1 GOP primary, then-candidate Jerry Carl said after the election he was going to push to bring the Mobile County commissioners and other county officials together.
“We’re all splintered up right now, everybody’s taken sides, but nobody’s going to remember that on March 2,” he said at a town hall event on Feb. 15.
When the ballots were counted last Tuesday, Carl squeaked by besting his challenger, State Rep. Margie Wilcox, by just four percentage points. The slim victory put an end to a race that made more noise than any other local election — indicative of the “splintering” Carl was referring to.
At events toward the end of the race, Wilcox was seen on several occasions with Commissioner Connie Hudson, Revenue Commissioner Kim Hastie and License Commissioner Nick Matranga. All of those elected officials openly supported Wilcox.
However, it’s important to note that the recent race isn’t the first the group had banded together. Hastie is long-time friend of Wilcox and both were graduates of Theodore High School. Hastie also helped with Wilcox’s campaign for House District 104, along with Mobile City Councilwoman Bess Rich.
Yet, politicos weren’t the only ones that appeared to be betting against Carl. One of Wilcox’s larger contributions came from a political action committee that received funds from Mobile County Engineer Joe Ruffer.
After Ruffer gave $3,500 in October, Wilcox, Hudson and Commissioner Merceria Ludgood all received money from the PAC. Carl was the lone exception at the time, though he later received money after Lagniappe began reporting on the finances in the race last December.
Though Hudson faced no opposition in the Republican primary, she will be running against Democratic challenger Lula Albert-Kaigler in the general election this November. Ludgood will not face an election in 2016.
At his victory celebration last week, Carl said it was “a new day” for the commission, adding that winning a second term gave everyone “a great opportunity to start over.”
“(Wilcox, Hastie and Hudson) represent the voice of the people too, and we will find a way to work together,” Carl told Lagniappe. “If there is anything I may have done to offend them or may have said wrong, I ask for their forgiveness. We’re going to get back to the business of the people.”
Carl and Hudson seem to have been at odds for about two years, since a proposal to build a $40 million, county-owned soccer and aquatic facility at the corridor of I-10 and I-65 first came up.
Carl originally proposed a smaller facility he claims would have been less expensive, and since then, has voted against nearly every motion related to the project.
In response to inquiries from Lagniappe, Hudson briefly addressed the relationship between her and her fellow commissioners in a prepared statement after the election.
“Regarding the rapport among County Commissioners, I can only convey my own intentions,” she wrote. “I am committed to representing District 2 and Mobile County to the very best of my ability and will continue to communicate with fellow commissioners and the public in an honest, respectful and professional manner that best serves the citizens of our county.”
With the primaries behind them, the “new day” for the Mobile County Commission should begin with their first regular meeting on March 14.