Nearly 40 pastors and church members from across the city of Mobile gathered in Government Plaza Aug. 14 to endorse Mayor Sam Jones, while also repeating sentiments expressed in a controversial flier distributed at a local church last weekend.
The supporters noted they were not speaking for their churches, but themselves.
St. Peter Baptist Church Pastor Cleveland McFarland Jr., who spoke in favor of the sales tax increase, said he is endorsing Jones because of what the mayor has already delivered.
“We are at a critical time in the future of Mobile. There are candidates in this election promising to deliver what Mayor Sam Jones has already delivered,” he said. “Over 1,800 jobs and maybe more will be brought to Mobile through Airbus. This is a result of the hard work of our mayor.”
Airbus is expected to bring up to 1,000 jobs to Mobile, although connected companies that may come here could make that number much higher.
McFarland echoed Jones’ statements that his campaign is about performance and not promises.
“I urge all of the citizens of Mobile to not be distracted by promises, but remain focused and support the man who has kept his promises and is moving our city forward,” he said. “As a city, in a progressive state, we do not need to go backwards. We must continue to move forward.”
The Rev. Bobby Cox of Bethel AME Church echoed McFarland’s endorsement.
“The best person for the next four years is Sam L. Jones,” he said. “The record is clear and the books are open.”
Montgomery Portis, who is the pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church and also supported the sales tax increase, said Jones has a “proven record.”
“Now is not the time to change to something we don’t know,” he said.
Association Pastor of Bethel AME Church Bobby Brown said Jones is “ordained on high.”
Some of the all African-American group also repeated seemingly racially charged sentiments Jones has made in the past about his opponent Sandy Stimpson. One supporter even touched on the ideas found in a controversial, racial flier passed around at a church last Sunday.
Both McFarland and Brown said citizens should not “sell their votes.”
“Many people lost their lives for the freedom we enjoy. The right to vote cannot be bought and should not be sold,” he said. “Do not accept bribes from candidates with deep pockets. “Please don’t sell your votes for parties, concerts and fish plates.”
McFarland’s comments, which were met with applause by the group of supporters, picks up the same language Jones used in an email to a constituent about Stimpson. In the email, Jones told the person that Sandy “might try hiring more blues singers and fish plates.”
The notion that voting for Stimpson would set back the work Civil Rights leaders fought for was also found in a flier distributed recently at Big Zion AME Church.
Jones, who welcomed the support of the pastors, said after the rally he did not think McFarland and Brown were speaking about Stimpson’s campaign in particular, but instead were reminding people of the past when that was commonplace.
When asked if he thought people would assume the pastors meant the comments were about Stimpson, Jones said, “people are going to think what they think, but they said what they believe.”