As I sit at my desk writing this column on Tuesday morning, Mobilians are headed to the polls to cast their vote for Mobile’s next mayor and in many districts their city councilpersons as well.
This column must be sent to the printer before the results are in, but since most of the campaigning and vote lobbying is done, I feel I can safely present the 2017 Mobile Municipal Election Campaign Awards, or the Campies, as I like to call them.
The Campies recognize the biggest triumphs and missteps of the election season. The mayor’s race has provided most of the fireworks, while the council races have been pretty tame. But from the boring to the bombastic, we still need to give credit where credit is due.
So, without further adieu, can someone hand me the envelope please? (Price Waterhouse has not confirmed these results.)
The Campie for Most Positive Campaign goes to … Mayor Sandy Stimpson. His campaign focused on the issues, the improvements and accomplishments his administration made over the last four years, and they tried to reach out to ALL Mobilians, a move which garnered him criticism from his rival, who labeled that outreach as disingenuous. If Mayor Stimpson wins it will certainly be in part because people were drawn to his positivity and turned off by his opponent’s negativity. But more so because, quite simply, Stimpson got a lot of stuff done in his first four years in office and people are excited about the city under his leadership.
If Jones is able to take his old job back, Stimpson can hold his head up high knowing he ran a very honorable campaign. Unlike some people, cough, cough. Move on to next Campie.
The Campie for Most Divisive Campaign goes to … former Mayor Sam Jones, who ran a campaign based not on the issues, but identity politics. From his announcement to the final days, his campaign and supporters said things like “we are the 52 percent” and “we are going to take our city back.” Such a divisive message from the word go!
What about the other 48 percent, Mayor Jones? Shouldn’t a candidate for mayor be focused on 100 percent of his constituents and moving us forward together as a city? We are “all in” this together. Though Jones threw around the phrase “all in” a lot, the actions of his campaign did not reflect those two words.
Jones’ surrogates also criticized black Mobilians who voted for Stimpson last time as being “weak minded” and “played” because Stimpson had “fish fries” and “blues singers” at campaign rallies. Jones himself said during his campaign announcement speech, “Now, I’m not going to tell you not to eat no not dog. … Everybody sees you eating a hot dog, but don’t nobody see you when you vote!”
How insulting to these voters! If their enthusiasm for you is so little that they can be swayed by a wiener on a bun or plate of fish, perhaps the problem is not with your opponent, Mayor Jones, but the man you see when you look in the mirror. If you do win this election, I certainly hope you will govern far differently than you campaigned, sir, and be a leader for all of Mobile.
The Campie for Campaign Most Against Food being served at his rival’s campaign rallies goes to … the Sam Jones campaign for the aforementioned reasons. I’ve just never seen such an obsession with food being served at rallies (and the belief that said food’s ability has the power to change votes) as I did during this campaign. Though it did make me hungry quite often this summer as it was repeatedly brought up.
The Campie for Biggest “October Surprise” goes to … the Stimpson campaign. Who says you can’t have an October surprise in mid-August? One of the only “negative attacks” the Stimpson campaign launched against Jones was information about an IRS penalty for misusing a tax-free bond that could have cost the city $45 million. Though the Stimpson administration was able to negotiate it down to a far lower, undisclosed amount, the taxpayers were still on the hook for the penalty.
Stimpson said upon finding this out on his first day in office, he decided not to publicly disclose it because he wanted to move on and not “air a bunch of dirty laundry.” But once Jones started taking credit for the city’s current financial position, Stimpson decided to throw that soiled laundry out on the field.
Though the story did get some attention, as it should have, I don’t think it was quite the “Access Hollywood” moment the Stimpson campaign thought it would be. It is pretty complex stuff and I just don’t think voters were able to wrap their heads around or get fired up about the intricacies of tax law and how it should be applied to tax-free bonds. I get it. Just typing that sentence made me sleepy.
The Campie for Cutest Surrogate goes to … District One City Councilman Fred Richardson’s cat. If Councilman Richardson is able to “squeak” out an outright win or even if he is just headed to a runoff, I believe he needs to thank his orange kitty, Squeaky. Fred often shared photos of Squeaky dressed in campaign T-shirts or Mardi Gras costumes, and they were like most cat pics on the internet, absolutely adorable. (And I’m a dog person.) I don’t know why, but I just love that cat. The Squeakster provided much-needed levity to an otherwise depressing, divisive campaign season. Squeaky for Mayor in 2021!