Progressives took a hit in this week’s elections, but there were a few bright spots. In Charlotte, N.C., where Republicans had ruled the South’s Bank City for 22 years, Democrat Anthony Foxx, a lawyer and community activist, was elected mayor, becoming only the second African-American in the city’s history to win the post. Democrats also picked up another seat on the city council, boosting their 7-4 majority to 8-3.
In Chapel Hill, N.C., the liberal establishment held off a band of businessmen trying to change the town’s course. Mark Kleinschmidt, a death-penalty defense lawyer and gay rights activist, defeated Matt Czajkowski, a former investment banker and retired corporate finance officer who pledged to cut taxes. In St. Petersburg, Fla., Steve Kornell, a school social worker, became the first openly gay person elected to the city council, with 59.5 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, Republicans were gearing up for 2010, previewing an ad focused on some the state’s most famous felon Democrats under the heading “Alabama Democrats and Their Corruption Problem.” On the video: Former Gov. Don Siegelman and recently convicted Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford. Langford plans to appeal his bribery conviction, but he didn’t help himself much with a rant this week in which he told the sentencing judge he had been treated worse than serial cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.
Here’s some other stories from around the South that grabbed our attention. And check out our News and Opinion Feeds for a lot more Southern happenings.
Bitter at Vitter: Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) wound up in a videotaped face-off with a constituent after he voted against a bill introduced by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) Franken’s bill would prevent the Pentagon from contracting with companies that require employees to seek resolution through arbitration instead of the courts. The bill was inspired by the much-publicized claim by a woman who worked in Iraq that her employer used the arbitration process to try to cover up her having been gang raped while working for the contractor. On one side of the YouTube moment in Baton Rouge was Vitter, the Republican who begged Jesus and the people of Louisiana to forgive him for consorting with call girls. On the other, a 30-year-old LSU student whose brutal rape put her attacker behind bars for life. Vitter, one of 30 Republican men voting against the bill, told the woman he had trouble with its wording. “What if it was your daughter who was raped?” the woman shouted. “Would you tell her to be quiet and take it?”
Tupelo prepares for hunk of burning birthday cake: Wherever he is out there, Elvis Presley wil turn 75 on Jan. 8, and the Mississippi town where he was born is planning a big celebration that weekend. There’ll be Elvis impersonators, a new exhibit at the local museum, a show by Marty Stuart, and 14 6-foot-high metal guitars painted by students in the local public schools.
Barking up the right tree: The situation at the Memphis, Tenn., dog pound got so bad that sheriff’s deputies raided it. Mayor A C Wharton temporarily closed the shelter and decreed that no more animals would be euthanized until an investigation has been completed. Animal rights activists planned a candlelight vigil for the abused dogs, including a starved puppy whose photos were making the rounds. “You can’t see something like this and not honor the victims,” said animal-rights advocate Diane McManus.
Censorship? Some graduates of Chattooga High School in northwest Georgia compaining that their yearbook is spoiled because school leaders ordered four pages cut from the book after it had been printed and delivered. Principal Jimmy Lenderman said in an e-mailed statement to the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he ordered the pages removed because the school’s image needs an overhaul and pictures on those pages did not represent Chattooga High School well. The pages contained photo montages that included a dozen or so shirtless young men playing basketball. One photo showed a young man standing behind a seated teen with his groin touching the back of the boy’s head. School officials have offered to refund the $50 purchase price, but Lenderman said no one has asked for a refund.
And you thought charging for baggage was clever? Air travelers caught in the Latin American crossroads that is Miami International Airport may one day be able to while away their waits by playing slot machines. Miami-Dade commissioners have agreed to apply for a permit to allow the slots, but political observers expect the effort to come up lemons when it gets to the state legislature. The commissioners are trying to find quick money to pay the debt on a recent expansion of the airport.