On Aug. 27, Mobilians went to the polls and elected Sandy Stimpson as their next mayor. Even people who proudly had “Sandy Stimpson for Mayor” yard signs stuck in their winter rye or Centipede would openly express their uncertainty throughout the campaign on whether Stimpson could unseat the incumbent, two-term mayor Sam Jones. But he did, capturing nearly 53 percent of the vote.
It wasn’t always pretty. Things got so nasty at times, many couldn’t wait to see Aug. 28 get here.
But with all of this behind us now, what did we learn from this race and where do we go from here?
1. You have to believe your own campaign slogan.
Mayor Jones’ campaign slogan was “Too Busy to be Divided,” but his actions did not support his words. The Jones camp tried to convince the African-American community Stimpson was a rich, racist, white guy who would “control” them and send them back to their pre-Civil Rights era “stations.” Black supporters of Stimpson’s were accused of being bought with fish plates and blues singers, as Jones’ supporters sported buttons reading “Unbought, Unbossed.”
Some of Jones’ radio ads that blared out of my car stereo made me wonder if I was driving around in 1963 or 2013. But judging just how the low the turnout was in the black community, it would suggest no one was really being bought with fish plates or buying the mayor’s argument either. In fact, I think this sort of rhetoric did nothing but help the Stimpson camp.
2. Danny Sheridan is “sometimes” wrong.
I thought the oddsmaker’s involvement in this race was kind of “odd” in the first place. When the Press-Register first ran a piece with his predictions back in 2011, basically saying anyone who ran against the mayor had a bajillion-to-one chance of winning, I thought maybe they were just doing a lighter, fun election story and that would be it, but as they kept running columns or referencing it, it seemed like they were actually taking his predictions as the gospel.
I’m sure it was unintentional, but it came off as almost a warning — anyone who even attempts to run against the incumbent is wasting their time. Stimpson’s campaign manager, Chad Tucker, even started off his election night victory speech by saying to the whole room of cheering supporters “Where is Danny Sheridan?” Let’s just say, I don’t think Tucker, nor his candidate thought they had wasted their time.
I wonder what the odds are of Sheridan weighing in on the next municipal election?
3. We’re not “One Mobile” yet. But I really think we can be.
Aside from the racially charged rhetoric coming out of the Jones camp, there was a lot of chatter on social media and comments on news sites regarding this election. Some of the divisive statements and attacks made by some supporters on BOTH sides were enough to make you lose your faith in humanity and wonder if the idea of “One Mobile” was an impossible dream. But the more I talk to people, I have to believe those nasty comments were made by the vocal minority — the same folks making the same offensive statements over and over again — and were not representative of our citizenry. This race unfortunately showed us that ugly underbelly, but it also showed us there are way more of us who want to open up this dialogue and find ways to make our community more connected in meaningful ways. Now we just have to get started.
4. Change is (usually) good.
Yes, we got a new mayor in 2005, but he had been in county government for a long time prior to that, so this is the first time we will have an “outsider” in office since former Mayor Mike Dow upset Arthur Outlaw. Also, most of Mayor Jones’ current administrative staff stayed the same as Dow’s, so there are some folks who have been in the same positions for decades — a few of whom have already announced their retirements, while some are hoping to stay.
Some of those folks (both retiring and hoping to stay) did fantastic jobs for both mayors, and I hope those who did and who do want to stay find their place with the new administration. But, there are already several key positions where we know there will be new folks, and that’s exciting. It will be nice to have some people with fresh eyes, new ideas and enthusiasm working under the leaky roof of Government Plaza, which, thanks to the county, may not even be leaky for much longer! Wow, it is a brand new day in Mobile.
5. We’re all motivated. Let’s not let it go to waste.
I have never seen a more motivated group of supporters as those of our mayor-elect. On election day, I literally saw Stimpson supporters offering to come pick up anyone who needed a ride to the polls, while also encouraging other supporters to go knock on doors or go the grocery store and talk to folks about why they should vote for their candidate.
People I never thought I would see standing on a street corner holding signs were doing just that, including many of our police and firefighters. The energy was contagious. And it worked. Against all odds (or at least Danny Sheridan’s).
There is a level of optimism flowing through this city right now I have not felt in my 18 years here. But I hope it doesn’t just fade away. I hope we can take all of this new energy and put it to good use – whether it is becoming more involved in our neighborhood organizations, volunteering for a favorite charity, or simply getting a group of friends together and going out one morning to pick up litter somewhere (Don’t worry, we’ll have gloves and it’s Mobile, we can have cocktails once we are done picking up dirty diapers and Hardee’s bags! Who is with me?)
Mayor-elect Stimpson has a tall order to fill, but I’m excited to see him try.