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Suit seeks to disqualify mayor of Birmingham

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — Mayor Larry Langford spent his first full day in office Wednesday trying to fend off a challenger's court claim that the election should be thrown out because Langford still lives in a neighboring city where he used to be mayor.

Testifying the day after his inauguration, Langford conceded he still owns the fully furnished home in Fairfield where he has lived for about 25 years. Many bills are still mailed to the house, and Langford said he spends "three or four" nights a week there.

But Langford said he spends the same amount of time at a $1,300-a-month downtown loft apartment he rented in June and furnished with nearly $14,000 worth of furniture to establish residency in Birmingham for the election.

"My primary residence is the loft in Birmingham," Langford said.

Circuit Judge Allwin Horn is hearing a lawsuit by Patrick Cooper, an attorney who finished a distant second to Langford in last month's election but filed suit contending Langford really lives in Fairfield and shouldn't be allowed to serve as mayor of Birmingham, Alabama's largest city with a population of about 208,000.

Resident of city

Attorneys said the law requires a mayoral candidate to be a resident of the city, so the case could turn on just what the judge determines it means to be a resident. At the end of Wednesday's hearing, Horn gave attorneys until Monday to submit additional filings. He did not indicate when he might rule.

Highlighting the difference between with sides, Cooper attorney Jim Ward addressed Langford as "Mr. Langford" while Langford's attorney, former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Ralph Cook, addressed him as "Mayor Langford."

Langford, a former TV reporter, was a Birmingham City Council member and lost a bid for mayor before moving to Fairfield, where he served about 14 years as mayor. He spent the last five years as a Jefferson County commissioner before winning the Birmingham mayor's race against nine opponents, including the incumbent, without a runoff.

Langford testified that he and his wife rented the downtown loft and moved in on June 22, about two months before he qualified to run for mayor. Langford said he changed his voter registration to his new address but only took out a six-month lease on the loft because he might move to another apartment or house in Birmingham.

"I have abandoned the (Fairfield) house as my primary residence," he said.

But Ward, Cooper's lawyer, pointed out that Langford — who described himself as a big football fan — ordered an NFL game package from Direct TV at the house in Fairfield on Aug. 28, more than two months after he claimed to have moved into the loft and after he qualified to run for mayor in Birmingham.

"In the house you said you've abandoned, you have seven receivers, seven TVs, for people to watch?" asked Ward.

"That's right," said Langford, who denied watching games at the house.

Cooper is asking the judge to disqualify Langford and order a new election.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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