Over the past few days I’ve been sent a few pictures of Facebook posts showing former Mobile Mayor Sam Jones sitting at a big conference table with some of his confidants and a bowl full of Starlight mints. The gist of the posts is that Silent Sam is coming back to take over as mayor.
And that, folks, is about as much actual campaigning as we’ve seen from Jones.
For months and months he’s hung it out there that he is going to challenge Sandy Stimpson for the mayor’s seat this summer, but so far Jones hasn’t done anything a political scientist might identify as “campaigning.” Other than some bumper stickers and Facebook posts, the campaign he’s allegedly running is about as underground as it gets. I say “allegedly,” but I’ve heard from enough knowledgeable people to believe Jones really is running, even if he looks like he’s sitting still.
It’s hard to know what to think of such a strategy — if it really even is a strategy and not just a product of a lack of money, energy and support. Politics 101 says if you want to get elected to an office you should go out and talk to people about your ideas and also raise money to advertise. But maybe Politics 102 says it’s smarter to just keep people wondering and act like you have some clever strategy nobody else is smart enough to understand.
And maybe that might even make sense if you had a good record and people had warm feelings about you, but Jones was a flop as mayor, left the city on the verge of bankruptcy and treated running the city like it was no one else’s business what he did. As a political dog he’s got a lot of fleas, so you’d think Candidate Jones would need to do a little explaining about why things were so woefully off track when he was running the show. But from what I can gather that’s not his plan.
Those in the political know locally claim Sam is just going to come running out of the woodwork in July and try a blitzkrieg campaign of sorts right before Election Day. I don’t really see how that’s going to work, but maybe there’s genius I’m missing.
Still, in the name of seeing a more competitive race, I’d like to offer a few suggestions that might help Jones in his quest to regain the mayor’s seat.
• First, let’s forget all about the sneaky stuff, Sam, and go bold. Let’s face it, your campaign is about someone who has failed miserably telling the public “I’d like to fail again, please.” One of the best ways to draw attention to any political campaign is to have a high-profile headquarters that projects exactly what your leadership style is all about. With that in mind, there’s really only one building that could house the Sam Jones for Mayor campaign — GulfQuest.
I’d imagine the city would rent it to you cheap. What says more about your past and future than this expensive debacle? And if I might be so bold as to offer a campaign slogan that would also serve as a fitting catchphrase for your new HQ — “Sam Jones: Nothing Going on Here.” See how it captures the building’s relative inactivity while also incorporating a classic response from those involved in unscrupulous activity? Perfect.
• Now let’s get to the meat of the matter. You’re black and Sandy’s white, and that’s what’s wrong with this city. In the last election you played the race card well, but not well enough. The allusions to him looking down from Spring Hill upon the poor, black sections of town were good, but they were kind of undermined by the fact that you didn’t do anything at all to help those sections of town while you were in office.
This time around it might be better to steer clear of comparisons that accidentally remind people you weren’t exactly looking out for your own constituents. Keep it simple. Let’s see some posters of Sandy Stimpson and Donald Trump together, for instance. (Nobody has any pictures of you and Trump, right?)
• And while you’re trying to paint Stimpson as a closet racist, let’s not forget about some of the issues he’s had with trees while in office. Stimpson’s poll numbers with trees is dismal — the man ran a lumber company! You should go out and meet with groups of trees and assure them they won’t be cut down in a Jones administration. Be sure to kiss a sapling. It’d make a nice commercial.
• Now it’s time for a few campaign promises. Let everyone know your first official act as mayor, after hiring back Larry Wettermark as city attorney to get the money rolling again, will be to put a double-reinforced, soundproof door with multiple locks back in the doorway into the mayor’s office. It’ll be a symbolic gesture to let voters know the secret deal is back! Also go ahead and book your favorite table back at your favorite steakhouse. Voters admire raw political power served with medium-rare filet mignon.
It might also be a good time to promise voters you’ll get Clarence Ball and your other cronies who ran the Mobile Housing Board in such a flim-flam manner back in charge. These HUD investigations need to be shut down and there’s no finer group of people to make that happen.
And don’t forget to promise you’ll get friends, relatives and acquaintances city jobs if they vote for you. I mean, who wants to vote for a mayor who can’t grow jobs? So what if no roads get paved or every garbage truck falls apart.
Sam, I’m not saying even these brilliant ideas will help you. Let’s face it, you really haven’t spent the past four years out in the community rehabbing your image. Sitting on the water board and going to work for your buddy Ball hardly has people thinking you’ve really changed considerably since you lost to Stimpson.
Hopefully you’ll go ahead and get out there and tell us why you deserve another chance. And if you do get GulfQuest as your HQ, you’ll at least have some cool games to entertain yourself with on the night of your victory party.